What are Some Bacterial Diseases?

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  • Written By: Lynne William
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 31 May 2019
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Bacterial diseases are infectious diseases affecting people, which are caused by human pathogenic bacteria. Most bacteria are harmless to people, and some are actually quite beneficial. However, some can cause illness, and a few are quite deadly. Many bacterial diseases can be successfully treated with modern antibiotics, though the overuse of these drugs is increasingly becoming a concern.

One of the most common of the bacterial diseases affecting humans is tuberculosis. Caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis, this disease is responsible for the death of nearly 2 million people annually, mostly affecting populations in the sub-Saharan region of the African continent. Pathogenic bacteria are the cause of infectious diseases including leprosy, tetanus, syphilis, and typhoid fever. Illnesses transmitted via bacteria through the consumption of food include salmonella, and shigella.

Staphylococcus, the primary pathogenic species of which is Staphylococcus aureus, is the cause of most most hospital-acquired infections. Multiple-drug-resistant strains have become increasingly problematic due to the overuse of antibiotics. Streptococcus pyogenes is the bacteria that causes strep throat, although not all streptococci are harmful. Some are beneficial, such as Streptococcus thermophilus, which is one of the bacteria that helps to produce yogurt from milk.


Pathogenic bacteria can be sub-classified in regard to how they interact with an infected person. Conditionally pathogenic bacteria are part of the normal human flora and usually co-exist peacefully without causing any disease. However, these same organisms can cause pneumonia and meningitis in certain individuals.

Rickettsia is considered to be an intracellular pathogenic bacterium as it is only able to live within the cells of a host organism. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Typhus are both caused by a different species of Rickettsia. A third class of pathogenic bacteria is called an opportunistic pathogen. These cause disease primarily in people with compromised immunosuppressive systems, such as persons with AIDS and cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Antibiotics are used to treat persons infected by bacterial diseases. There are two general types of antibiotics: bacteriocidals kill bacteria and bacteriostatics simply prevent the growth of bacteria. Antibiotics, in addition to treating disease in humans, are also used to promote farm animal growth. In recent years, it is the overuse of antibiotics in these two ways that many scientists claim has caused increasing resistance to antibiotics in the general population.

There are many simple methods by which infections due to pathogenic bacterial diseases can be prevented. By cooking food to at least a temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius), most foodborne bacteria can be killed. The proper cleaning of cooking implements and surfaces, particularly cutting boards, can also help minimize risk. The proper sterilization of medical equipment such as syringes, catheters, and surgical instruments are important measures that can be taken to prevent bacterial infection.


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