They are a natural and needed part of life. In fact, they often protect us by competing with more dangerous bacteria for food and space. Bacteria cause disease and infection when they are able to gain access to more vulnerable parts of our bodies and multiply rapidly. Bacteria can infect many parts of the body, including:
The body’s first reaction to a bacterial invasion, as in any injury, is a general inflammatory reaction. Blood vessels in the area of the infection widen to increase the supply of white blood cells that fight infection. Blood proteins, called complement, are released into the system. Complement either kills the bacteria directly or attracts immune cells called phagocytes, which ingest and kill the bacteria. The body then produces more immune cells, including white blood cells called T cells, which kill foreign substances in the body. T cells stimulate other white blood cells called B cells to secrete specific antibodies. Antibodies are molecules that the body’s immune system uses to identify a particular invader. Over a person’s lifetime, the immune system develops millions of antibodies. In response to a bacterial invasion, the antibodies bind to bacteria and then attract complement and phagocytes, which kill the bacteria.
When the bacteria succeeds in multiplying to the point where the body’s natural defenses are not adequate, antibiotics may be needed to either destroy the bacteria completely, or else kill enough of them so that the immune system can finish the job.
Other sources of information for these topics.
MedlinePlus: Bacterial Infections
Directory of news releases. articles, and factsheets.
Bacterial Infections and Mycoses
... Gangrene - Gram-Negative Bacterial Infections - Gram-Positive Bacterial Infections ... Bacterial - Staphylococcal Infections - Streptococcal Infections ...
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