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Common Bacterial Diseases Affecting Humans - Treatment and Prevention

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Bacteria cause many human diseases that have plagued mankind for centuries. This article describes the treatment and prevention methods for bacterial infections.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Namrata Singhal

Published At September 7, 2022
Reviewed AtMarch 22, 2024

Bacteria cause many human diseases that have plagued mankind for centuries.

It may be helpful for common people to be aware of those diseases to avoid becoming confused when faced with one of them. Some of these diseases are:

  • Typhoid.

  • Tuberculosis.

  • Gonorrhea.

  • Diphtheria.

What Is Typhoid?

Typhoid is an acute infection that is accompanied by fever, headache, and abdominal pain.

The flagellate Gram-negative bacillus Salmonella typhi causes typhoid. Similarly, milder paratyphoid is caused by Salmonella paratyphi.

How Is Typhoid Transmitted?

The bacterium is transmitted in water. If feces or vomit of an infected person are disposed of in water, and this water is then used for drinking, cooking, or washing purposes, transmission might occur. Flies act as vectors and carry the pathogen from waste matter to uncovered food. People with the bacillus reproducing inside their bodies and who excrete them in feces but do not show any signs of the disease are known as 'healthy carriers. If such a person is employed as a cook or food handler, there is a high risk that he would pass the bacteria into the food.

What Is the Life Cycle of Vectors?

The insect vector of typhoid is the adult housefly. There are several ways in which a house fly transmits the typhoid bacillus.

  • Housefly feeds upon all sorts of organic matter, from exposed excretory matter to uncovered food material. Since the typhoid bacillus is discharged in the feces of an infective person, the hairy legs and the wings of the housefly may gather some of the germs from the feces and then deposit them on some uncovered food when they walk over these.

  • Houseflies are saprozoic. They release saliva containing digestive enzymes into their food and absorb the extracellularly digested food. When they feed upon contaminated feces, they will suck the typhoid bacillus. A successful parasite is always resistant to the digestive juices of its host or vector, so the bacillus does not die due to the enzymes. When the fly next feeds upon food material and releases saliva, its saliva contains typhoid bacillus, and thus, the food is contaminated. This is certain to happen because the same mouthparts are used for sucking up and releasing saliva. Being resistant to digestive juices, the bacillus is also present in the feces of the fly and, therefore, may contaminate food material when it excretes on the food.

What Is the Treatment of Typhoid?

General care, isolation of the patient, and disinfection of all discharges are of primary importance. It is necessary to guard against the development of bedsores. The patient may suffer from mental confusion and so should constantly be guarded to prevent him or her from leaving the bed. The mouth should be kept as clean as possible to prevent the development of sores. Ampicillin is the drug of choice, but Chloramphenicol may be required in severe cases.

Sponging with tepid water or alcohol is done when the temperature reaches unusual heights. Surgical interventions may be necessary if antibiotics and bowel decompression fail to control severe hemorrhage or if intestinal perforation occurs. Systemic treatment, including careful nursing, nutritious food, bed rest, a clean, hygienic environment, and strong emotional support, is important for early recovery.

How to Prevent and Control Typhoid?

The use of the TAB (combined vaccine against typhoid, paratyphoid A and paratyphoid B) efficiently prevents the risk of typhoid. Proper sanitation, healthy disposal of waste matter, good hygiene, and effective drinking water treatment prevent typhoid. Articles in contact with the patient must be sterilized before being used by other people. The house fly lays eggs in the exposed household refuse. Therefore, to reduce the number of houseflies, the garbage should be properly disposed of and kept out of flies' reach.

Fruits that are eaten raw must be thoroughly washed before eating. All food material must be kept covered and away from flies. Mesh wire netting must be used in the windows so flies cannot enter the house. Insecticides may be used to kill the flies.

What Is Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease that mostly affects the respiratory system but can affect any part of the body. Coughing up blood is the most common sign of pulmonary tuberculosis.

What Is the Cause of Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis is caused by a wide range of bacilli of the mycobacterium genus. The most common organism which affects the lungs is Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

How Is Tuberculosis Transmitted?

Mycobacterium tuberculosis is spread chiefly by droplet infection. The bacteria is released in droplets of water from the noses, mouth, and lungs when a tuberculosis patient coughs, sneezes or talks. If these droplets are inhaled, it creates a pathway for the bacillus into the body of a healthy person.

What Is the Treatment of Tuberculosis?

Recent developments in chemotherapy have greatly altered the time-honored views concerning the need for strict isolation and prolonged bed rest. In severe cases, however, bed rest, an adequate well-balanced diet, and relief from tension may be required. Chemotherapeutic drugs include Rifampicin, Isoniazid, Pyrazinamide, Streptomycin, and Ethambutol. Kanamycin, Ethionamide, Prothionamide, and Para-aminosalicylic acid (PAS) are useful in cases where the pathogen seems resistant to the other drugs or where the disease has relapsed.

Systemic treatment, including careful nursing, nutritious food, bed rest, a clean, hygienic environment, and strong emotional support, helps in early recovery.

How to Prevent Tuberculosis?

Diagnostic procedures such as mass radiography and skin-scratch tests help prevent the spread of tuberculosis. Active immunity can be gained by the application of the vaccine BCG (Bacille Calmette-Guerin) after the skin-scratch test. Keeping the patient in isolation, proper sanitation, and good hygiene prevents the risk of transmission of tuberculosis. Humid, crowdy areas should be avoided as these provide a good chance for droplet infection to occur. Good ventilation and space reduce the risk of transmission of tuberculosis.

What Is Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a contagious, catarrhal inflammation of the genital mucous membranes of either sex. The disease may also affect other parts of the body.

What Is the Cause of Gonorrhea?

Gonococcus Neisseria gonorrhoeae causes gonorrhea.

What Are the Symptoms of Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea in females is usually asymptomatic. Even if there is discomfort, it seems not enough for the patient to seek medical care. However, within a short time, the bacteria may attack the ovaries and cause sterility. In males, the urethra becomes inflamed, and a greenish-yellow mucopurulent discharge appears at the end of the penis. The acidity of the urine produces a burning sensation in the infected urethra during micturition. If the infection spreads up to the prostate gland, the patient suffers from slow, painful micturition and sometimes painful induration of the penis. Further bladder infection causes cystitis, and infection of the sperm ducts or epididymis may result in sterility.

How Is Gonorrhea Transmitted?

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease and is transmitted only during sexual intercourse with an infected person. An infected pregnant mother could pass the disease on to the fetus during birth and cause ophthalmia in the baby.

What Is the Treatment of Gonorrhea?

Most strains of Neisseria gonorrhoeae can be destroyed by one or more of the various forms of oral penicillin, along with oral Ampicillin or oral Amoxicillin. Nowadays, a once-only dose of Ceftriaxone is an ideal choice for gonorrhea and penicillinase-producing Neisseria gonorrhoeae. However, these treatments are most successful if given in the early stages of infection.

How to Prevent Gonorrhea?

Immunity to gonorrhea is not possible. The use of contraceptives such as condoms or diaphragms during sexual intercourse prevents skin-to-skin contact and effectively reduces the risk of transmission. Multiple sexual partners should be avoided. Females should undergo regular checkups for symptoms of gonorrhea. A baby born to an infected mother must be given one drop of 1% silver nitrate solution in each eye immediately after birth.

What Is Diphtheria?

Diphtheria is an acute infection characterized by the formation of a pseudomembrane on any mucous surface and occasionally on the skin. According to the site of the attack, there are four types of diphtheria – nasal diphtheria, pharyngeal diphtheria, laryngeal diphtheria, and cutaneous diphtheria.

The onset of the disease is gradual, usually with a slight headache and a temperature between 100ºF to 102ºF. The throat is sore with the presence of yellowish-white or grayish membranes adherent to the tonsils or pharyngeal walls. Fever is much more evident in nasal diphtheria. There can be serious blood-tinged discharge from the nostrils.

What Is the Cause of Diphtheria?

Diphtheria is caused by a non-spore-forming, non-motile, club-shaped Gram-positive bacillus Corynebacterium diphtheriae.

How Is Diphtheria Transmitted?

The diphtheria bacillus is spread mainly in respiratory secretions. It is an airborne droplet infection. Tiny droplets of water released from an infected person's nose and mouth carry the bacteria. If a healthy person inhales these, he or she becomes susceptible to the disease. However, if the environment is not humid, the droplets will dry out. Since the bacillus is non-spore-forming, it will die in dry conditions. Poor personal and community hygiene is mainly responsible for the transmission of diphtheria. A 'healthy carrier can also transmit diphtheria.'

What Is the Treatment of Diphtheria?

Penicillin is effective against all, and Erythromycin against many Gram-positive bacteria, inhibiting their growth. Diphtheria equine antitoxin ('equine' means prepared from horse serum) must be given within three days of onset in all cases where diphtheria is suspected. Removal of pseudomembranes by direct laryngoscopy or bronchoscopy may be necessary to prevent or alleviate obstruction of the respiratory tract. Strict bed rest should be maintained during the acute and convalescent stages of the disease. A liquid or soft diet containing plenty of water, fruit juices, or nourishing broths is recommended.

How to Prevent Diphtheria?

Active immunity can be attained by injecting the diphtheria toxoid diphtheria. This vaccine is usually available as a combined vaccine for diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus and is therefore known as the DPT vaccine. It is administered as a routine childhood immunization. The vaccination for adults is the same for tetanus and consists of two doses about four to six weeks apart and a third dose six to twelve months later. Booster doses are given every ten years afterward. A person who had been attacked once is not susceptible to the disease again. The infected person should be isolated to prevent droplet infection. Handkerchiefs should be used while coughing and sneezing. Humid, crowded areas should be avoided. Personal and community hygiene should be maintained.


Bacteria cause various diseases in humans. Bacteria that cause diseases have got the ability to invade the body tissues and fluid. Bacteria can release toxins, damage cells directly, and alter cellular functions. Bacteria are present everywhere in the environment. They help in maintaining a sustainable environment. But humans should take preventive measures to protect against harmful bacterial species.

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Dr. Muhammad Shoyab
Dr. Muhammad Shoyab



bacterial infection
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