Bacteria are a group of microorganisms responsible for colonization and infections of human tissues. The mechanisms by which bacteria cause disease are as varied as the types of causative microbes and body systems affected. Bacterial infection may cause illness within a matter of minutes to decades from the time of initial colonization.
|Causes||Food, Air, Water, Soil, Medical Settings|
|See Also||Infections, Respiratory Conditions, Digestive Conditions, Urinary Conditions, Musculoskeletal Conditions|
|Books||Books on Infections, Allergies, Intolerances|
|Articles||Articles on Infections / Allergies / Sensitivities|
Any infection depends on two factors: personal susceptibility and exposure to a pathogen. The naturopathic assessment looks at both aspects. The stronger a person's vitality the less likely they will be affected by exposure to bacteria or other pathogen.
The sources of infectious bacteria include:
- Many common bacteria infections are spread through inhalation, including Legionella spp, Streptococcus spp, Mycobacterium spp, and Bordetella.
- Nosocomial Environments
- Hospital and institutional settings can be sources of pathogenic bacteria. Immunocompromised individuals, high density of ill persons, and medical procedures and equipment that expose tissues to the external environment (such as indwelling catheters) can increase the risk of acquiring an infection in these environments.
- Common bacterial infections acquired by ingesting contaminated food stuffs include Salmonella spp, Shigella spp, E. coli, Campylobacter, Listera spp, Clostridium botulinum, and Vibrio spp.
- Pathogenic bacteria found in soil include Pseudomonas spp, and Clostridium tetani.
- Pathogenic bacteria can be acquired by ingesting contaminated water.
- Fomites are inanimate objects upon which bacteria can reside.
- Bacteria transmitted by arthropod bite include Ricksettia spp, Coxiella spp, Borrelia spp, and Yersinia pestis.
- Bodily Fluids
- Bacterial infections transmitted by the exchange of body fluids include Treponema pallidum, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, and Chlamydia trachomatis.
- A variety of bacterial infections can be acquired via fecal-oral transmissions.
- Bacteria such as Bacillus spp and Campylobacter spp can spread from animal resevoirs into human populations.
It is common to be colonized by potentially pathogenic bacteria. Often these bacteria only become problematic in immunocompromised states, or when they gain entry to tissues not normally colonized. These bacteria include Streptococcus spp, Staphylococcus spp, E. coli, and many others.
If bacterial infection is suspected upon physical examination and health history intake, diagnostic studies may be used to confirm diagnosis and to identify the bacteria implicated.
Diagnostic testing for bacterial infections includes:
- Depending on the body system affected, imaging including x-ray, CT scan, ultrasonography, and MRI may be indicated to evaluate bacterial infection.
Bacteria are prokaryotic microbes, and for the most part are not infectious. In fact, humans have more colonizing bacteria than human cells! The human gut alone has more than 395 types of bacteria typically colonizing it. Bacteria only move from a colonizing health-promotion role to an infectious role when they posses genes that encode for virulence factors.
Bacteria, when infectious, cause symptoms and diseases in the following manner:
- destruction of normal cells
- triggering an immune response
- production of toxins (endotoxin or exotoxin) that are harmful to the body.
Common signs and symptoms associated with bacterial infections are as varied as bacteria themselves. Symptoms associated with bacterial infections include, but are not limited to:
Common Bacteria-Associated Conditions
Chronic illnesses associated with bacterial infection include:
There is evidence that the following illnesses may also be associated with bacterial infection:
Conditions by Body System
The following is a list of common and/or important bacterial infections. This list is not exhaustive.
- Respiratory Bacterial Infections include:
- Tuberculosis (Mycobacterium tuberculosis)
- Whooping Cough (Bordetella pertussis)
- Legionnaires disease ("Legionella spp)
- Pneumonia (Streptococcus pneumoniae, Psuedomonas spp., Kleibsiella pneumoniae)
- Pharyngitis (Streptococcus pyogenes")
- Meningitis (Neisseria meningitidis, Haemophilus influenzae
- Gastroenteric Bacterial Infections' include:
- Gastroenterocolitis (E. coli, Vibrio cholerae, Salmonella spp.)
- Pseudomembranous colitis (Clostridium difficile)
- Paralytic food poisoning- Botulism (Clostridium botulinum)
- Urinary Bacterial Infections include:
- Dermatological Bacterial Infections include:
- Impetigo (streptococci or staphylococci)
- Cellulitis (Group A or non Group A hemolytic streptococcus, S. aureus, Haemophilus influenza,
- Necrotizing fasciitis (S. pyogenes, S. aureus, V. vulnificulus, A. hydrophilia, and Peptostreptococcus specis)
- Folliculitis (Staphylococcus species, Pseudomonas)
- Acne vulgaris (Propionbacterium acnes)
- Furuncles and Carbuncles (S. aureus, E. coli, P. aeruginosa, Bacteriodes, Lactobacillus, Peptococcus, Peptostreptococcus)
- Zoonotic Bacterial Infections include:
- Anthrax (Bacillus anthracis)
- Lyme Disease (Borrelia burgdorferi)
- Sexually Transmitted Bacterial Infections include:
- Syphillis (Treponema pallidum)
- Gonorrhoeae (Neisseria gonorrhoeae)
- Chlamydia (Chlamydia trachomatis)
- Chanchroid (Haemophilus ducreyi)
The goal of naturopathic treatment is to support and work in tandem with the healing power of the body and to address the causal factors of disease with individual treatment strategies. The treatment for bacterial infections follow the same principles as all infections. The specific type of infection, i.e., whether it is acute or chronic and what physiological system is affected dictates the specific treatment strategy. For a full listing of treatment options refer to the section on infections.
It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor before engaging in any treatment plan.
- Herbs with antibacterial properties include: Garlic (Allium sativum), Baptisia tinctoria, Berberis aquifolium, Barberry (Berberis vulgaris), Turmeric (Curcuma longa), Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia), Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), Olive (Olea europaea), Pau d'Arco (Tabebuia avellanedae), St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum), Juniper communis, Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca alternifolia), Tanacetum, Thyme (Thymus vulgaris), Usnea barbata
Reviewed by Iva Lloyd, BScH, RPE, ND 
- Chappell JD, Dermody TS (2009) Mandell: Mandell, Douglas, and Benett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases 7th ed Vol 2 Part III Sect A Chap 194 Introduction to Bacteria and Bacterial Diseases Churchill Livingstone
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