Pathogenic bacteria are bacteria that can cause infection. This article deals with human pathogenic bacteria.
Although most bacteria are harmless or often beneficial, some are pathogenic. One of the bacterial diseases with the highest disease burden is tuberculosis, caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which kills about 2 million people a year, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. Pathogenic bacteria contribute to other globally important diseases, such as pneumonia, which can be caused by bacteria such as Streptococcus and Pseudomonas, and foodborne illnesses, which can be caused by bacteria such as Shigella, Campylobacter, and Salmonella. Pathogenic bacteria also cause infections such as tetanus, typhoid fever, diphtheria, syphilis, and leprosy. Pathogenic bacteria are also the cause of high infant mortality rates in developing countries.
Koch's postulates are the standard to establish a causative relationship between a microbe and a disease.
Each species has specific effect and causes symptoms in people who are infected. Some, if not most people who are infected with a pathogenic bacteria do not have symptoms. Immuno-compromised individuals are more susceptible to pathogenic bacteria.
Some pathogenic bacteria cause disease under certain conditions, such as entry through the skin via a cut, through sexual activity or through a compromised immune function.
Streptococcus and Staphylococcus are part of the normal skin microbiota and typically reside on healthy skin or in the nasopharangeal region. Yet these species can potentially initiate skin infections. They are also able to cause sepsis, pneumonia or meningitis. These infections can become quite serious creating a systemic inflammatory response resulting in massive vasodilation, shock, and death.
Other bacteria are opportunistic pathogens and cause disease mainly in people suffering from immunosuppression or cystic fibrosis. Examples of these opportunistic pathogens include Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Burkholderia cenocepacia, and Mycobacterium avium.
Obligate intracellular parasites (e.g. Chlamydophila, Ehrlichia, Rickettsia) have the ability to only grow and replicate inside other cells. Even these intracellular infections may be asymptomatic, requiring an incubation period. An example of this is Rickettsia which causes typhus. Another causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Chlamydia is a phylum of intracellular parasites. These pathogens can cause pneumonia or urinary tract infection and may be involved in coronary heart disease.
Other groups of intracellular bacterial pathogens include Salmonella, Neisseria, Brucella, Mycobacterium, Nocardia, Listeria, Francisella, Legionella, and Yersinia pestis. These can exist intracellularly, but can exist outside of host cells.
Bacterial pathogens often cause infection in specific areas of the body. Others are generalists.Bacterial vaginosis is caused by bacteria that change the vaginal microbiota caused by an overgrowth of bacteria that crowd out the Lactobacilli species that maintain healthy vaginal microbial populations.
Other non-bacterial vaginal infections include: yeast infection (candidiasis), Trichomonas vaginalis (trichomoniasis).
Bacterial meningitis is a bacterial inflammation of the meninges, that is, the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.
Bacterial pneumonia is a bacterial infection of the lungs.
Urinary tract infection is predominantly caused by bacteria. Symptoms include the strong and frequent sensation or urge to urinate, pain during urination, and urine that is cloudy. The main causal agent is Escherichia coli. Urine is typically sterile but contains a variety of salts, and waste products. Bacteria can ascend into the bladder or kidney and causing cystitis and nephritis.
Bacterial gastroenteritis is caused by enteric, pathogenic bacteria. These pathogenic species are usually distinct from the usually harmless bacteria of the normal gut flora. But a different strain of the same species may be pathogenic. The distinction is sometimes difficult as in the case of Escherichia.
Bacterial skin infections include:
Impetigo is a highly contagious bacterial skin infection commonly seen in children. It is caused by Staphylococcus aureus, and Streptococcus pyogenes.
Erysipelas is an acute streptococcus bacterial infection of the deeper skin layers that spreads via with lymphatic system.
Cellulitis is a diffuse inflammation of connective tissue with severe inflammation of dermal and subcutaneous layers of the skin. Cellulitis can be caused by normal skin flora or by contagious contact, and usually occurs through open skin, cuts, blisters, cracks in the skin, insect bites, animal bites, burns, surgical wounds, intravenous drug injection, or sites of intravenous catheter insertion. In most cases it is the skin on the face or lower legs that is affected, though cellulitis can occur in other tissues.
Iron is required for humans, as well as the growth of most bacteria. To obtain free iron, some pathogens secrete proteins called siderophores, which take the iron away from iron-transport proteins by binding to the iron even more tightly. Once the iron-siderophore complex is formed, it is taken up by siderophore receptors on the bacterial surface and then that iron is brought into the bacterium.
Once pathogens attach to host cells, they can cause direct damage as the pathogens use the host cell for nutrients and produce waste products. As pathogens multiply and divide inside host cells, the cells usually rupture and the intercellular bacteria are released. Some bacteria such as E. coli, Shigella, Salmonella, and Neisseria gonorrhoeae, can induce host epithelial cells to engulf them in a process resembling phagocytosis. The pathogens can then disrupt host cells as they pass through them and be extruded from host cells by a reverse phagocytosis process, enabling them to enter other host cells. Some bacteria can also penetrate host cells by excreting enzymes and by their own motility; such penetration can itself damage the host cell.
Toxins are poisonous substances that are produced by certain microorganisms and are often the primary factor contributing to the pathogenic properties of the microorganisms. Endotoxins are the lipid portions of lipopolysaccharides that are part of the outer membrane of the cell wall of gram negative bacteria. Endotoxins are released when the bacteria lyses, which is why after antibiotic treatment symptoms can at first worsen as the bacteria are killed and they release their endotoxins. Exotoxins are proteins produced inside pathogenic bacteria as part of their growth and metabolism, most common in gram positive bacteria. The exotoxins are released when the bacteria die and the cell wall breaks apart. Exotoxins are highly specific in the effects on body tissues and work by destroying particular parts of the host cell or by inhibiting certain metabolic functions. Exotoxins are among the most lethal known substances, only 1 mg of the botulinum exotoxin is enough to kill one million guinea pigs. Diseases caused this way are often caused by minute amounts of exotoxins, not by the bacteria themselves.
Typically identification is done by growing the organism in a wide range of cultures which can take up to 48 hours. The growth is then visually or genomically identified. The cultured organism is then subjected to antibiotics to observe reaction to help further identify species and strain.
Bacterial infections may be treated with antibiotics, which are classified as bacteriocidal if they kill bacteria or bacteriostatic if they just prevent bacterial growth. There are many types of antibiotics and each class inhibits a process that is different in the pathogen from that found in the host. For example, the antibiotics chloramphenicol and tetracyclin inhibit the bacterial ribosome but not the structurally different eukaryotic ribosome, so they exhibit selective toxicity. Antibiotics are used both in treating human disease and in intensive farming to promote animal growth. Both uses may be contributing to the rapid development of antibiotic resistance in bacterial populations. Phage therapy can also be used to treat certain bacterial infections. Infections can be prevented by antiseptic measures such as sterilizing the skin prior to piercing it with the needle of a syringe and by proper care of indwelling catheters. Surgical and dental instruments are also sterilized to prevent infection by bacteria. Disinfectants such as bleach are used to kill bacteria or other pathogens on surfaces to prevent contamination and further reduce the risk of infection. Bacteria in food are killed by cooking to temperatures above 73 °C (163 °F).
Many genera contain pathogenic bacteria species. They often possess characteristics that help to classify and organize them into groups. The following is a partial listing.
This is description of the more common genera and species presented with their clinical characteristics and treatments.