Infectious Disease and Clinical Microbiology
Infectious diseases and clinical microbiology are complex and interrelated areas of medicine that are critical for understanding and preventing the spread of illnesses caused by microorganisms. Microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites, can invade the body and cause disease. They are responsible for some of the most common and deadly illnesses that affect humans, including tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and Influenza. Clinical microbiology is a branch of medicine that focuses on the study of these microorganisms and the diseases they cause, as well as the development of diagnostic tests and treatments for these conditions.
Infectious diseases specialists receive training in the field of infection specialization for 5 years in addition to 6 years of medical school education. They become experts in this field after extensive and detailed training. Infectious diseases specialists monitor and treat many diseases such as influenza, urinary tract, respiratory tract, diarrhea, AIDS, meningitis and jaundice.The field of microbiology is responsible for diagnosing diseases caused by microorganisms, detecting signs that guide treatment, proposing an appropriate strategy for treatment, and preventing the spread of these diseases.Clinical Microbiology is also a medical specialty focusing on diagnostic test and techniques to isolate and identify infectious diseases.
What are the Sub-Branches of Infectious Disease and Clinical Microbiology?
The study of infectious diseases and microbiology involves a wide range of scientific disciplines, including epidemiology, virology, bacteriology, mycology, parasitology, and immunology. The goal of this field is to understand the mechanisms by which microorganisms cause disease, how they are transmitted, and how they can be prevented or treated. A critical aspect of this work is the development of diagnostic tests that can quickly and accurately identify the presence of specific microorganisms in a patient’s blood, urine, or other body fluids. This allows healthcare providers to quickly determine the cause of an infection and provide appropriate treatment.
What Do Experts in Infectious Disease and Clinical Microbiologists Do?
Infectious disease physicians are medical experts in diagnosing, treating, and preventing infectious diseases. They can also be involved in researching and developing new treatments and vaccines against infections. In a hospital setting, Infectious disease experts are usually responsible for managing antibiotics for antibiotic resistant or multi-system infections. Clinical microbiology helps diagnose diseases by isolating the causing microbe using various methods and visually identifying the pathogens.
What Are the Types of Infectious Diseases?
Many living organisms live inside and outside of our bodies. These organisms are normally harmless. But in some cases, organisms can cause diseases. Infectious diseases are diseases caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites in general. Infectious diseases can be transmitted from humans or animals. Consuming contaminated food and drink can increase the risk of infectious diseases. Symptoms of infectious diseases may vary according to the disease, but fatigue and fever are usually the main symptoms. Mild infections can be overcome by resting at home. However, some life-threatening infections may require hospitalization. Infectious diseases unit is a department that carries out the evaluation, monitoring and treatment of these diseases.
Diseases treated in infectious diseases can be listed as follows:
Diseases Caused by Bacteria, Viruses, Fungi and Parasites
These diseases are caused by fungi, parasites, viruses and bacteria that settle in the body. These diseases can be passed from person to person through blood, saliva, respiratory and bodily fluids. Such diseases are usually manifested by fever, diarrhea, fatigue and muscle aches. Depending on the type of disease, the treatment method can be with medication or surgery. Typhoid, brucellosis and similar diseases can be given as examples.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Sexually transmitted diseases include HIV, gonorrhea and hepatitis. Among these diseases are sexually transmitted diseases. Treatment of these diseases may vary depending on the type of disease. Monogamy is significantly effective in preventing sexually transmitted diseases. In addition, protection during intercourse reduces the possibility of disease transmission.
These diseases, which are sexually transmitted diseases, neutralize the immune system after they settle in the body. It makes the body vulnerable and makes it easier to approach other diseases.
Types of Hepatitis
Hepatitis, which causes yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, can occur as a result of many diseases. There are three different types of this disease:
- Hepatocellular jaundice: It is caused by damage to the liver.
- Obstructive jaundice: It occurs as a result of obstruction between the channels connecting the liver, gallbladder and intestine.
- Hemolytic jaundice: It is caused by the breakdown of red blood cells in the blood faster than normal.
The disease is diagnosed by measuring the level of bilirubin in the blood. To treat this disease, it is aimed to reduce the rate of bilirubin in the blood.
Respiratory Tract Infections
Respiratory infections, especially seen during seasonal transitions, manifest themselves with headache, fever and difficulty in breathing. Influenza, sinusitis and tonsillitis are examples of respiratory tract infections. It can be treated with antibiotics.
Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections can occur if bacteria found outside the body reach the urinary tract. The most common symptoms of urinary tract infections are frequent urination, burning when urinating, fever and fatigue. It can be treated with antibiotics.
Soft Tissue Infections
This infection, which develops in soft tissues, manifests itself with fever and pain.
Blood tests are used to diagnose the infection developing in the soft tissues and can be treated with antibiotics.
Brain and Spinal Cord Infections
The treatment of the disease can be with medication, but if it progresses, surgical treatment can be applied. Meningitis, encephalitis can be given as examples of these diseases.
What Are The Symptoms of Infectious Diseases?
Symptoms of infectious diseases may vary depending on the type of disease.
However, viral and bacterial infections can generally occur with the following symptoms:
- Head and muscle pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fatigue and weakness
Diseases caused by fungi, on the other hand, occur with different symptoms. Fungal infections, which usually present with redness and itching, cause more localized symptoms.
What Are The Diagnostic Methods for Infectious Diseases?
Infectious diseases often have similar symptoms. Samples from body fluids can help identify the causative microorganism. The doctor may order various laboratory tests, imaging or biopsies to understand what is causing the disease. The methods used to diagnose infectious diseases can be listed as follows:
- Blood tests
- Taking a swab from the nose or throat
- Urine or stool tests
- Lumbar puncture
Imaging tests can be used to identify areas of the body that are affected by the infection and to identify other conditions that the disease may cause. Imaging tests used to identify infectious diseases can be listed as follows:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Computed tomography imaging (CT)
Biopsy samples may be taken to diagnose certain infectious diseases. The biopsy is a diagnostic method performed by taking small pieces of tissue from some organs.
How Does Clinical Microbiology Help in Diagnosis?
Some infectious diseases can be easy to diagnose. However, in some cases, it is necessary to conduct extensive and comprehensive studies to diagnose a disease. Therefore, it may be necessary to resort to microbiological laboratory methods to identify the effects of a microorganism. The task of clinical microbiology is to examine the samples taken from the patients to identify the microorganisms that cause or may cause the disease and to provide information about the treatment of this disease. Therefore, a clinical microbiologist should be qualified to give advice to the doctor.
What Are The Infectious Diseases Treatment Methods?
In order to treat infectious diseases, it is essential to first determine what causes the disease. After the doctor determines what causes the disease, he can prepare an appropriate treatment plan for it. The methods used to treat infectious diseases can be listed as follows:
- Antibiotic Drug Treatment: Use antibiotic therapy to treat infections caused by bacteria. The antibiotic used may vary depending on the type of bacteria.
- Antiviral Drug Treatment: Antiviral drug therapy can be used to alleviate the symptoms of infection caused by viruses. These drugs can be used to treat certain diseases caused by viruses.
- Antifungal Drug Treatment: Antifungal medication can be used to treat infections caused by fungi. The use of these drugs may vary depending on the type of fungus.
- Antiparasitic Drug Therapy: Antiparasitic drug therapy can be used to treat diseases caused by parasites
Most infectious diseases can resolve on their own over time. A healthy diet and drinking lots of water can help you recover quickly.
What is Antibiotic Resistance?
Irregular and unnecessary use of antibiotics can cause antibiotic resistance in individuals. Because bacteria with antibiotic resistance are more resistant than other bacteria, they are more difficult to eradicate. In addition, resistant bacteria can transmit these traits through genetics. It is important to use antibiotics regularly and to be careful about hygiene in order to avoid antibiotic resistance.
How to Treat a Resistant Bacterial Infection?
When an individual develops antibiotic resistance, different treatment modalities can be used. Phage therapy, also known as bacteriophage therapy, aims to kill bacteria. Known as bacteria eaters, phages are harmless to humans, animals and plants as they target bacteria. Bacteriophages attach to bacteria and inject their own DNA or RNA into the bacteria. It reproduces by producing a copy of itself inside the bacterium. Eventually the bacterium explodes and dies. New bacteriophages emerge from the bursting bacteria and attack other bacteria. Once the bacteria are all broken down, they stop multiplying.
In addition, people who receive tissue and organ transplants and those with liver failure
should be more careful because they use drugs that suppress the immune system. Since antibiotics are metabolized in the liver, the use of antibiotics in people with liver failure may put a heavy load on the liver. Not using any medication unless the doctor recommends it, paying attention to hygiene and eating a healthy diet can make it easier for them to fight the disease.
How are Infectious Diseases Spread?
Infectious diseases can be spread in various ways, depending on the type of infection.
Infectious diseases can spread particularly through:
- Coughing or sneezing
- Kissing or sexual intercourse
- Shared personal items
- Insect or fly bites
- Unhygienic environments
- Blood or organ transplants
- From a pregnant woman to a fetus
Who are Most at Risk of Contracting Infectious Diseases?
Anyone can get contagious diseases. Especially people with weakened immune systems can be infected more easily. In addition, individuals living in unhygienic areas can be infected more easily. These people are at higher risk of contracting infectious diseases:
- AIDS patients
- Cancer patients
- Pregnant women and children
- Health workers
- People living in an unhygienic area
What to Do to Prevent Infectious Diseases?
While it is not possible to definitively prevent infectious diseases, there are many ways to reduce the risk. The methods applied to prevent infectious diseases can be listed as follows:
- Vaccination: Vaccines can strengthen the immune system against harmful infections, helping it recognize and fight them. Even if the vaccinated person gets the disease, their symptoms will be milder than that of someone who has not been vaccinated.
- Safe Food Consumption: It is important to wash food and your hands well before eating. Eating fruits and vegetables by peeling the skin can help prevent a possible infection. If you are going to eat meat, take care to cook the meat on a suitable fire. Avoid eating raw or undercooked seafood.
In addition, keeping a safe distance from individuals with infectious diseases, being protected during sexual intercourse, and staying away from areas with harmful insects can reduce the likelihood of contracting infectious diseases.
Expertise Across the Fields
Epidemics may develop in the world from time to time. Treatment and follow-up of these diseases are very important. Epidemics developing in Türkiye are generally followed by public health experts and tried to be controlled by the infectious diseases unit.
As one of the government-affiliated organizations under the Ministry of Health in the Republic of Türkiye and the leader in Infectious disease and clinical microbiology, HealthTürkiye promotes health services across Türkiye for international patients. They work with a single goal: to support and coordinate the private and public sectors toward health tourism.
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