Health Matters

Infectious Diseases

Infectious diseases are disorders caused by organisms (pathogens) that get into our body from the outside. Many organisms live in and dwell on the human body. They are normally harmless or even beneficial. However, there are also organisms that can cause infections that are difficult to fight.

4 types of infectious diseases

Infectious diseases are different in how they spread and affect our body. Treatment is also different depending on the origin of the infectious agent. Learn more about the four types of infectious diseases by expanding the below sections.

Bacterial

Bacterial infections can affect your skin, brain, blood, and other part of your body. Some of the most common diseases caused by bacteria are strep throat and tuberculosis, but others, such as salmonellosis, pneumonia, or meningitis, can be highly serious.

Did you know? Antibiotics are one of the most significant discoveries in medical history; they save millions of lives. Since penicillin was first discovered in 1928 by Alexander Fleming, antimicrobials have revolutionized our society and economy.

  • 1.7m

    Deaths per year from mycobacterium tuberculosis, the world's leading infectious disease (1)

  • Antibiotics

    Are not effective against viruses

  • Intrinsic or inherent resistance

    Some bacteria are naturally resistant to certain antibiotics

Viral

Viral infections can affect different areas and systems of the body, the most common of which being the respiratory system. Some of the most common diseases caused by viruses are flu, herpes and warts, but others, such as HIV/AIDS, Ebola, and COVID-19 can cause severe illness.

Did you know? Antiviral medicines unlike most antibiotics, do not kill their target pathogen; instead they prevent its growth.

  • 620m

    Cases of COVID-19 reported (2)

  • Every 30 seconds

    A person dies from viral hepatitis (3)

  • Antimicrobial resistance

    Has been found in all regions of the world

Parasitic

Parasitic infections can affect your intestine but also your lungs, your cardiovascular system, and even your neurological system. Some of the most common diseases caused by parasites are amoebiasis, ascariasis, and trichuriasis, but others, such as malaria are dangerous.

Did you know? Parasitic infections are one of the world’s major causes of human illness and suffering. Protozans cause a variety of diseases, including Chaga’s disease and malaria which is transmitted through a bite of a female anopheles mosquito.

  • 400,000

    Deaths per year from malaria (4)

  • 600m

    People infected with Whipworm (5)

Fungal

Fungal infections can affect your skin, hair and nails, but also organs such as the lungs, eyes, liver, and brain. Some of the most common diseases caused by fungi are athlete’s foot and ringworm, but others, such as aspergillosis and histoplasma are more serious.

Did you know? Fungi can develop resistance to antifungal drugs the same way bacteria can develop resistance to antibiotics.

  • 365days/year

    People breathe in or come in contact with fungal spores without getting sick

  • 150m

    Severe cases of fungal infections every year (6)

  • Resistant fungi

    Can spread across countries and continents through people, animals, and goods

What medicine is used for infectious diseases?

To treat infectious diseases, we use active substances of natural or synthetic origin known as antimicrobials which inhibit or kill the growth of microorganisms. They play a crucial role in treating diseases of human, animals and plants.

Antimicrobial products are among the most commonly used types of drugs. Each of them works against only one type of organism. Traditionally, they have been prescribed by doctors, but nowadays a rising number of healthcare professionals are involved in prescribing decisions, including pharmacists and nurses.

Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. They can be bought at the pharmacy or administered at a hospital. In many countries, they are only available with a prescription.

Antivirals are used to treat viral infections. Some are effective against a broad spectrum of viruses, but the vast majority target specific viruses.

Antiparasitics are used to treat infectious diseases caused by parasites such as threadworm, tick, and headlice. Antiparasitic drugs are frequently available over the counter.

Antifungals are used to treat fungal infections. They either kill or prevent further growth of fungi. Most antifungal medicines can be bought at the pharmacy without a healthcare professional’s prescription.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR)

Antimicrobial resistance is the ability of microbes to neutralise the effects of drugs. The main drivers in the development of drug-resistant pathogens are misuse and overuse of antimicrobials.

The emergence of microbial resistance to conventional medicines is a serious danger to the effectiveness of current antimicrobial therapy.

  • 1.27m

    Deaths attributable to bacterial AMR in 2019 (7)

  • 670,000

    Infections in the EU/EEA due to bacteria resistant to antibiotics every year (7)

Antibiotic resistance (AR)

Antibiotic resistance is a narrower term; it is the ability of bacteria to become resistant to an antibiotic to which they were previously susceptible. That means the bacteria are not killed and continue to grow.

Only microorganisms, not people, become resistant to antibiotics. Some pathogens can be resistant to multiple antibiotics available for treatment (multidrug-resistance). Human activity can even introduce antibiotic-resistant germs into the environment (soil, water).

  • 33,000

    People in EU die each year as a direct consequence of infections due to resistance to antibiotics (8)

  • 80%

    Patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the US from Mar-Oct 2020 received an antibiotic (9)

How to prevent health burden?

The greatest gift you can give yourself and your loved ones is a healthy you. Take care of your body and focus on living the highest quality of life you can through your daily choices.

At Acino, we have longstanding knowledge which we want to share with you. Explore our materials to raise your awareness, and make decisions to stay healthy and to improve your quality of life.

Reduce your risk

No one can completely avoid getting an infection, but you can:

  • Practice healthy habits (hand washing can help limit the spread of infections)
  • Stay healthy when traveling abroad (avoid salads and fresh herbs, do not eat raw foods, peel yourself fruits and vegetables before eating them, and drink lots of safe water)
  • Get vaccinated

Over 30 different bacteria, viruses and parasites are known to be transmitted through sexual contact. Ways to protect yourself include:

  • Use of condoms
  • Getting tested

Help fighting antimicrobial resistance

  • 7 essential steps to prevent antimicrobial resistance
    1. Take antimicrobial medicines only when prescribed.
    2. Use antimicrobial as directed by your healthcare professional.
    3. Do not skip doses as prescribed by your treating physician to preserve the effectiveness of the medicine.
    4. Complete your full course of prescribed treatment even if you feel better.
    5. Do not save antimicrobials for the next time you get sick.
    6. Never take a medicine prescribed for someone else.
    7. Do not take antibiotics for a virus; they are only effective against infections caused by bacteria.
  • Download our roll up and poster, and spread the word
  • Join us on Facebook and let’s talk antimicrobial, especially during the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) from 18 to 24 November every year.

References

1. Physiopedia Bacterial Infections – 2020 data. Available at: https://www.physio-pedia.com/Bacterial_Infections (last accessed 22.10.2022).
2. Coronavirus Resource Center – 2022 data. Available at: https://origin-coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html (last accessed: 26.10.2022)
3. World Hepatitis Alliance and WHO – 2022 data. Available at: www.who.int/news/item/07-06-2022-world-hepatitis-summit-2022-urges-action-to-eliminate-viral-hepatitis-as-unexplained-hepatitis-cases-in-children-rise-globally (last accessed: 26.10.2022)
4. Parasites – 2022. Availabel at: https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/about.html (last accessed: 25.10.2022)
5. Parasites – Trichuriasis (also known as Whipworm Infection) – 2020 data. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/whipworm/index.html (last accessed: 25.10.2022)
6. Fungal infections in humans: the silent crisis – 2020. Available at: https://microbialcell.com/researcharticles/2020a-kainz-microbial-cell/ last accessed: 25.10.2022)
7. Antimicrobial Resistance Collaborators – 2022. Global burden of bacterial antimicrobial resistance in 2019: a systematic analysis. The Lancet; 399(10325):P629-655. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(21)02724-0 (last accessed 14.10.2022).
8. Antimicrobial resistance surveillance in Europe 2022 – 2020 data. (2022, January 26). European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Available at https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/publications-data/antimicrobial-resistance-surveillance-europe-2022-2020-data (last accessed 13.10.2022). Estimates based on data from EARS-Net.
9. COVID-19: U.S. Impact on Antimicrobial Resistance, Special Report 2022. (2022, June 14). Available at: https://stacks.cdc.gov/view/cdc/117915 (last accessed 12.10.2022).

Last update: 16 November 2022

This website does not provide medical advice
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