Microorganisms are tiny living creatures, such as bacteria and viruses. Microorganisms are present everywhere. Despite their overwhelming abundance, relatively few of the thousands of species of microorganisms invade, multiply, and cause disease in people.
Antibiotics are drugs used to treat bacterial infections. They are not effective against viral infections and most other infections. Antibiotics either kill bacteria or stop them from reproducing, allowing the body's natural defenses to eliminate them.
Bacteria are microscopic, single-celled organisms. They are among the earliest known life forms on earth. There are thousands of different kinds of bacteria, and they live in every conceivable environment all over the world. They live in soil, seawater, and deep within the earth’s crust. Some bacteria have been reported even to live in radioactive waste. Many bacteria live on and in the bodies of people and animals—on the skin and in the airways, mouth, and digestive, reproductive, and urinary tracts—without causing any harm. Such bacteria are called resident flora, or the microbiome. There are at least as many bacteria in our resident flora as there are cells in the body. Many resident flora are actually helpful to people—for example, by helping them digest food or by preventing the growth of other, more dangerous bacteria.
Bacteria are classified by how they appear under the microscope and by other features. Gram-negative bacteria are classified by the color they turn after a chemical process called Gram staining is used on them. Gram-negative bacteria stain red when this process is used. Gram-positive bacteria stain blue. Gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria stain differently because their cell walls are different. They also cause different types of infections, and different types of antibiotics are effective against them.
Gram-positive bacteria are classified by the color they turn after a chemical called Gram stain is applied to them. Gram-positive bacteria stain blue when this stain is applied to them. Other bacteria stain red. They are called gram-negative. Gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria stain differently because their cell walls are different. They also cause different types of infections, and different types of antibiotics are effective against them.
Immunization enables the body to better defend itself against diseases caused by certain bacteria or viruses. Immunity (the ability of the body to defend itself against diseases caused by certain bacteria or viruses) may occur naturally (when people are exposed to bacteria or viruses), or doctors may provide it through vaccination. When people are immunized against a disease, they usually do not get the disease or get only a mild form of the disease. However, because no vaccine is 100% effective, some people who have been immunized still may get the disease.
A parasite is an organism that lives on or inside another organism (the host) and benefits (for example, by getting nutrients) from the host at the host's expense. Although this definition actually applies to many microbes, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses, doctors use the term "parasites" to refer to
Echinococcosis is caused by the dog tapeworms Echinococcus granulosus and Echinococcus multilocularis. In people, the tapeworms can cause fluid-filled cysts or masses to form in the liver or other organs.
A virus is composed of nucleic acid, either DNA or RNA, surrounded by a protein coat. It requires a living cell in which to multiply. A viral infection can lead to a spectrum of symptoms from asymptomatic (no overt symptoms) to severe disease.