Bacterial infections, when we should be concerned and how to prevent them

Bacterial infections, when we should be concerned and how to prevent them

A serious bacterial infection, capable of knocking out the body and even requiring hospitalization in intensive care. This is what struck Madonna, an international pop star forced to interrupt her world tour for this very reason. According to her manager, her infection was "serious" and led, in fact, to "a stay of several days in intensive care". But what is a bacterial infection? And why can it force an emergency hospitalization, or even threaten a person's life?

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What is bacterial infection

In practice, bacterial infection occurs when a bacterium not normally present inside enters the body, or a bacterium already present in the body multiplies in a way that is harmful to the body. These are very common infections and can often be treated at home. But infections are not always caused by bacteria that systematically cause disease, they can also be caused by microorganisms normally present in most healthy people. These same harmless bacteria, however, can become pathogenic when they are found in an area of ​​the body where they shouldn't be, or when they are present in too high a number, as can happen in the event of a lowering of the immune system. However, there are always pathogenic strains of bacteria (e.g. the enterohemorrhagic strains of the Escherichia coli bacterium).

The most common infections

When we move our gaze to the bacteria responsible for the most common infections, it is at the top of the list Streptococcus pneumoniae - the pneumococcus - , which is usually found in the nose and pharynx of many healthy people. The entire population is therefore responsible for the transmission of this bacterium to elderly people, children and other vulnerable people, who can thus develop dangerous infections: every year it causes a thousand serious infections (of the blood or of the meninges) and several thousand pneumonia. It is also responsible for numerous infections that heal spontaneously, such as some ear infections and some bronchitis.

Next comes it Staphylococcus aureus - the golden staphylococcus - , which is part of the microbial flora of the skin of a third of the population, without causing disease. Depending on the type (strain) and state of the infected person's immune system, Staphylococcus aureus can lead to infections of the skin, bones, soft tissues and even the blood. In hospitals, Staphylococcus aureus is the most frequent cause of surgical wound infection. In animal farms it can cause various infections, especially in the mammary glands of dairy cows.

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Nightmare Escherichia coli

And then there is the Escherichia coli, which belongs to the enterobacteria family. These bacteria colonize the intestines of humans and animals without causing disease; they are useful and form part of the normal intestinal flora. However Escherichia coli can trigger infections when it is found in other organs (urinary infections, intra-abdominal infections and meningitis in newborns). Some pathogenic strains of Escherichia coli (eg the O157:H7 strain, which produces a toxin) circulate between animals, foodstuffs and humans, where they can cause fever, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea. In exceptional cases these infections can be fatal.

follow theKlebsiella pneumoniae, also enterobacterium which normally colonizes the digestive tract of humans and animals. It is one of the microorganisms that causes the greatest number of nosocomial and urinary tract or respiratory tract infections, especially severe pneumonia. In infants, Klebsiella pneumoniae can cause bloodstream infections associated with a high mortality rate. This bacterium also has the particularity of easily developing forms of multiple resistance to antibiotics.

Finally, they fall into the category too Acinetobacter baumannii And Pseudomonas aeruginosa, two bacteria that primarily cause infections in healthcare settings. The resistance of these germs to antibiotics of last resort (carbapenems and polymyxins) continues to grow, both nationally and internationally.

How to tell if you have a bacterial infection

So how do you know you've been hit by a bacterial infection? Symptoms of the disorders can include: high fever, swelling and redness in the throat, enlarged and plaque-covered tonsils, in some cases even abdominal pain accompanied by nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, headache and production.

Even for bacterial diseases, as well as for viral ones, the immune system is activated and is often able to counteract the pathogenic activity. However, bacterial infections are more persistent than viral ones and also more difficult to eradicate. It is for this reason that, after a possible period of observation which varies according to the disease, if there has not been a spontaneous improvement, the doctor may resort to the prescription of antibiotics.

How they are transmitted and when they get complicated

The bacteria can enter the body through wounds on the skin, by mouth (by placing your hands in your mouth after touching a contaminated surface), or as a result of medical procedures, such as catheterization or surgical incisions. Sometimes, however, the infection can occur by air, by breathing droplets of saliva or sputum emitted by an infected person through coughing or sneezing.

Not treating infections promptly can lead to serious health problems: Many can spread to the bloodstream, joints, or other areas of the body, making them more difficult to treat. If this happens, serious complications can also occur, even fatal in some cases. Let's talk about sepsis: generalized infection that can affect one or more organs and can compromise their functionality.

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How to prevent them

So, what to do to prevent bacterial infections? The easiest way is to practice good hygiene, especially in the case of wounds or cuts. So it is advisable to wash your hands before touching the wounds, make sure you always keep the wounds clean, use sterile dressings and ointments, consult a doctor for deep wounds or wounds with many foreign residues, do not share personal items, such as razors, undergo vaccines available. It is also advisable to keep the environments in which you live clean.
Finally, to strengthen the immune system and make the body less susceptible to these infections, it is possible to use supplements based on Echinacea, Elderberry, Astragalus, Pelargonium sidoides, dry grapefruit seed extract, Propolis, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, specific probiotics .

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