A little history
Today, the fact that many diseases are caused by microorganisms is broadly accepted.
Yet, is was only 100 years ago that this theory was acknowledged. In earlier days, large outbreaks of epidemic diseases were common and would kill large parts of the population.
The fact that these epidemics could be related to a large population density, bad hygienic standards, and malnutrition had not yet occured to anyone. The puplic opinion was that diseases were God's way of punishing sinners, and at the same time epidemics were compared to weather phenomena and catastrophies of nature. The scientists of the past believed that one could become infected by infectious emanations from the sick or by "bad air" in certain regions.
The first to present a theory concerning the fact that diseases might be transmitted by invisible organism was a man named Gialamo Fracastoro from Verona. He called these invisible organisms disease seeds, but since he was only a philosopher he had no way of proving his hypothesis and was soon forgotten.
It was not until the appearence of Louis Pasteur (1822 - 1895) who was succesfull in proving the existence of invisible microorganisms that the idea would begin to become more accepted. When the Scotch surgeon Joseph Lister in 1867 proved that a large part of the dissemination of diseases and thereby mortality in the hospitals could be avoided if the staff washed their hands between their contact with each patient, there was no longer any doubt. Bacteria were real, and they could cause disease in humans.
Bacteria are extremely small single-celled organisms with a diameter of only 0.001 millimetres in average. Their genetic material, the DNA, is surrounded by a membrane and a thick protective cell wall. They are actually closer to the vegetable- than to the animal kingdom. They exist in various shapes and forms. Some are round or oval. They are called cocci. Others are cylindrical and are called bacilli. Others, again, are helical. Bacteria can have so-called flagella, a certain type of moveable tails that work like propellas and make it possible for them to move through liquids.
When bacteria are in their right sorroundings and nutrition and temperature are adequate, they multiply by asexual reproduction, meaning that there are no males or females. Each cell is simply split in half, and two cells are formed. These will, again, split in half, and so the story continues. This cause of events, also known as binary fission will continue until all of the nutrition in the area has been used up, or bacterial waste-products (toxins) have accumulated in the area making it uninhabitable.
Many bacteria produce toxic agents (toxins) that are harmful to humans. Disseminated bacterial infection is potentially an extremely dangerous condition since large quantities of excreted toxins can be deadly.
There are immensely different shapes and forms of bacteria, but far from all of these are pathogenic.
We all have bacteria in our gastro-intestinal system, and they are supposed to be there. In the same way, there is also natural bacterial flora on the skin, in the nasal cavity, inside the mouth, in the throat and in the vagina. These bacteria take part in preventing pathogenic microorganisms, as fungus, for example, from establishing themselves inside the body or on the body surface and make way for disease development.
However, if these bacteria are transferred to another place; on the body surface or inside the body where they are not supposed to be, they too can cause disease - intestinal bacteria that end up inside the vagina or oral flora that infect a wound. In many cases of bacterial disease, however, the disease comes from an exterior source.
Traditionally, bacteria are divided into families, relatives, and species by order of chemical properties. Most importantly how they can be visualized by staining in specimens for the microscope: gram positive, gram negative, or acid-fast (which are not discoloured by treatment with acid), and by their microscopical and morphological characteristics: cocci, which are more or less round or oval in appearence and bacilli, which are more elongated and slimmer in shape. They are subdivided by biological characteristics as oxygen dependence and ability to form spores.
For an overlook, the listed bacteria are divided by gram-colour and morphology, since the different members of a family bear resemblences in prevalence and pathology. For a more profound presentation, search for the different diseases here in the Health Problems category.
Gram positive cocci
Staphylococcus (Staphylococcus aureus)
Part of the natural bacterial flora of humans and animals. Aureus species are often pathogenic, however, and can cause a number of different dermal infections like abcesses, festered fingers, impetigo, and sycosis (barber's itch). In addition to dermal infections, Staphylococcus aureus cause infections in burns and traumatic- and surgical wounds. Other manifestations are a number of diseases in the respiratory tract, such as bronchitis and pneumonia as well as otitis media and more rare diseases like abcesses of bone (osteomyelitis) and rare infections of the bone marrow, as well as puerperal (childbed) fever, mastitis and septicemia. Staphylococci can also cause infection of the cardiac valves and meningitis. A characteristic of the staphylococcal infections is the development of a viscous, yellow pus which often requires surgical intervention for complete drainage.
Some staphylococci produce toxins. If the bacteria are transmittet from people who have contact with and prepare provisions before sale, the bacteria can culture in the provisions and produce numerous toxins that are poisonous to humans. Symptoms occur within 2 hours of the ingestion of the contaminated food, and are heavy abdominal cramps with vomiting and diarrhoea.
One can easily be infected with staphylococci through tiny cuts of the skin, both by having direct contact with infected individuals or by having contact with an object that has been touched by an infected individual. They can also be transmitted through dust or respiratory droplets that travel in the air. The risk of being infected while staying at or working in hospitals is particularly great.
Streptococcus (Streptococcus viridans)
Are widespread in nature. Both totally harmless and pathogenic species exist. A well-known non-pathogenic type is the lactobacteria, which are found in yoghurt. Streptococcal infections are among the most common diseases and have taken the lives of many, especially children and young adults, in the past.
The most important streptococcal infections are puerperal fever, septicemia, inpedigo, angina, pneumonia, otitis media, meningitis, erysipelas, scarlet fever, and infections of wounds. Streptococci are transmitted by direct as well as indirect contact between infected individuals. As an example of indirect transmission, comforters and teddybears can carry streptococci among small children in day-care centres. This is why epidemics are relatively frequent in institutions for small children.
Gram positive bacilli
Infection of short-term visitors like tourists is rare but can happen through contact with souvenirs of animal origin. The disease is caused by the bacteria Bacillus anthracis, which prevails in the soil in most parts of the world, but most cases are seen in poor countries in Africa and Asia. In unfavourable sorroundings, the bacteria form spores, which are extremely resistable to heat, drought, boiling, and chemical disinfection, and can survive for years. When the conditions for life improve, the spores germinate, yielding vegetative bacteria that multiply at high rates
To begin with, the bacteria infects herbivores like goats and cows, who become infected through eating grass and plants contaminated with spores. Inside the gastro-intestinal tract of the animal the bacteria multiply at high rates, and dissiminate to other internal organs. The infection will usually kill the animal within a short period of time. When the animal either dies from the diesease, or is killed, humans can become infected by eating the meat of the infected animal or by having contact with spores in the bones, horn, or leather, for example.
Humans are infected in 3 ways. Through breaks of the skin (malignant postule), by eating infected meat (fastro-intestinal anthrax), or by inhalation of spores (pneumonic anthrax).
The symptoms of the dermal infection, the malignant postule, is at first only a small red spot, similar to an insect bite in appearence. The spot develops into a vesicle, which later ruptures and creates an ulceration that forms a ragged, firm crater with a dark leathery base.
Pulmonary anthrax ("Wool sorters' disease")
The most dreaded manifestion of anthrax is the pulmonary form, which in many cases develops into a lethal sepsis.
The anthrax vaccine was used in the Golf war and is under suspiscion for being at least partly responsible for the so-called "Golf War-syndrome."
This bacterium is found in certain types of grain and in flour and rice. The bacteria produce a heat-stable toxin. Humans become infected by eating heated meals that have been left on the table for some time and cooled off gradually. Found mostly in rice dishes. Symptoms are pronounced gastro-intestinal infections, but they are rarely dangerous.
This group consists of several pathogenic species. One of the most well-known is Clostridium botulinum, the botulism-bacteria. The bacteria in itself is not pathogenic, but as soon as it begins to divide and grow, it liberates an extremely dangerous toxin that can be lethal even in small concentrations. Botulin (the toxin of the bacteria) is actually the most toxic agent known. A dose of less than 1 microgram of this toxin can be lethal. However, the toxin is quickly destroyed if the food is heated. The incubation period is usually around 12 hours, but can vary from only a few hours to several days. Symptoms of intoxification are: nausea, vomiting, speech disturbances, visual disturbances, and paralyzation of the respiratory muscles. The bacteria are most often found in tinned food, and most importantly home-conserved food (like herring, for example), since canners are subject to strict rules in order to avoid its presence.
Clostridium tetani (tetanus bacillus)
Another clostridium species. This bacterium is present in dirt and in mud. It is strictly anaerobic, meaning that it requires an oxygen-free environment in order to survive. To be infectious to humans, it has to grow in a wound with impared blood supply. The bacterium in itself is not pathogenic, but it secretes a toxin that is extremely dangerous because it damages the nervous system and causes cramps. Tetanus is most common in connection with large wounds, but small deep cuts like that of the thorn of a rose can also cause tetanus if the bacteria has formed its toxin while living on the rose. The Tetanus bacillus is found in all places where manure is used.
The symptoms are difficulty in swallowing and cramps that initiate in the masticatory muscles, muscles of the neck and back, and rigitity in between fits.
Diphteria (Diphteria bacillus)
The diphteria bacillus causes diphteria, an extremely infectious type of angina. The disease can also be passed on by healthy disease carriers. Bacteria are transmitted by exudates from coughing or sneezing (droplet infection).
The bacteria predominantly culture in the nasal mucosa and the throat, and can cover the tonsils with a pale membrane. The bacteria produce toxins which are transmitted by the systemic circulation and can damage the blood vessels and nerves.
The incubation period is 2 - 6 days. Symptoms are a light fever, sore throat and difficulties in swallowing, headache and pronounced swelling of the glands of the neck and throat. Sometimes a pale-grey, smooth, and thick membrane is formed on the mucosa of the throat. If this membrane succeeds in spreading further down the throat to the vocal chords, a barking babyseal-like cough is developed, along with hoarseness, and difficulties in breathhing that are often accompanied by feelings of suffocation.
There can therefore be a severe risk of occlusion of the throat and death by suffocation. 2 - 6 weeks after the onset of the disease, in addition to difficulties in swallowing, there is also a risk of more severe symptoms, like paralysis and brain damage.
Another presentation is the much more rare nasal diphteria, which primarily results in the generation of a bloody secretion from the nasal mucosa. The bacteria produce toxins that damage the blood vessels, heart muscle, nerve paths, and kidneys.
Widespread in animals and humans, and also found in the soil, on plants, food, and in sewage. This bacterium can cause diseases like meningitis (usually in children), miscarriage and encephalitis. Normally it is only pathogenic to people who are already weakened by cancer therapy or other kinds of immuno-suppression. The source of infection is usually contaminated provisions, especially poultry and cheese.
Acid-fast bacteria, Mycobacteria
The most important mycobacteria in human pathology are the three species of the so-called tubercle bacteria; most importantly Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which causes tuberculosis in humans and Mycobacterium leprae which causes leprosy.
Leprosy (Hansen's disease, Mycobacterium lepra)
The germ is the bacillus, Mycobacterium lepra, which exclusively infects humans and multiplies extremely slowly. The bacterium is usually transmitted through phlegm (by way of coughing or sneezing) or infectious material from the nose (droplet infection). However, intimate and prolonged contact with infected individuals is neccessary for disease transmission.
The incubation period varies from 3 - 5 years (!) after exposure. The first visible symptom is a rash, because the bacteria culture in the area around the nose. Subsequently, the bacteria invades the nerves and nerve paths and destroy them. Later, nodular and tumor-like distortions of the skin can develop, along with hemi- or paraplegia and paralysis.
Cold- and heat sensation can be impaired or lost entirely, along with the sensation of pain.
This can make way for the development of the characteristic wounds, scars, and tumour-like distortions the disease is so well-known for.
The disease is still common in most parts of the world, especially Africa and Latin America, but also occurs in many of the countries of Southern Europe.
Tuberculosis (Mycobacterium tuberculosis, -bovis, TB)
Tubercle bacilli cause tuberculosis. Tubercle bacilli are transmitted both as small, dry airborne particles (infection through dust) and through respiratory droplets in the air from the coughing and sneezing of infected individuals. Should one actually breathe infectous material, however, one will not neccessarily develop the clinical disease, as long as the immune system is in good shape.
Symptoms appear within varied intervals of weeks to years after the first contact with infectious matter. The symptoms are coughing, nightly sweating and unprovoked weight loss. Many infections are subclinical and result in the development of immunity. The bacteria infect the lungs after inhalation of the small infectious particles, and in rare cases, as in immuno-suppressed patients, for example, the infection can disseminate and infect other organs.
There are two different types of tubercle bacteria
Mycobacterium tuberculosis is almost always transmittet through respiratory droplets from infected individuals. The symptoms of infection are: Fever, unprovoked weight loss, cough with bloody expectoration, nightly sweating and pronounced fatigue.
Mycobacterium bovis, cattle tuberculosis. Transmitted through the milk of infected cows, humans catch the disease by drinking unpasteurized milk. The infection is disseminated through the lymphatic system.
Prophylactic precautions are relevant when travelling, since approximately 1/3 of the population of the world are infected with tuberculosis. The disease is particularly wide-spread in Tibet.
The incidence of the disease increases with approximately 13% every year, and the disease is especially problematic in the Eastern European countries, because of development of antibiotic resistant species. These resistant species develop because of the use of several different kinds of antibiotics at the same time. It is also a frequent complication to AIDS. Although the disease is not very contageous, it is a growing problem, not only in the developing countries, but in many European countries as well. Healthy people only have very small risks of catching the disease during short-lasting trips to epidemic centres.
Gram negative cocci
This disease can be caused by a large number of bacteria; most importantly and most dreaded, the meningococcal infection. See meningococcal meningitis and streptococcus below.
The bacteria is transmitted form person to person by respiratory droplets, during coughing or sneezing. Has epidemic potential, since many have subclinical infections, and can infect their sorroundings, unaware of their infectious status (carriers).
The incubation period is only a few days. Symptoms are a high fever, aloofness, headache, stiff neck and back, and vomiting. In severe cases, a morbilliform rash can develop, together with small heamorrhages in the white of the eye, and on the skin and mucosa.
Meningococci are ubiquitous and cause meningitis throughout the world, but the highest incidences are found in the tropical parts of Africa, India, Nepal and other parts of Asia, Saudi-Arabia, southern Sahara, and Southern America.
Gram negative bacilli
Brucellosis (Swing fever)
Brucellosis is a fever caused by the Brucella bacterium. Brucella bacteria can be acquired
by drinking unboiled milk (from cows or goats), cheese, and youghurt. The infection results in a fluctuating fever lasting from 1 to 3 weeks, together with general symptoms as fatigue, headache, and muscle-pains. The disease can drag on for months.
Helicobacter pylori (also known as Campylobacter pylori)
A bacterium that has only recently been brought to our attention. Its natural hosts are flyes, birds and other animals, but the bacterium is also a common inhabitant of the gastro-intestinal system of humans, without it neccessarily having to cause any problems there. It needs a certain degree of humitity, and can survive deep-freeze, but not high temperatures. Helicobacter are aqcuired in the same way as salmmonella. See Salmonella below.
During the last couple of years it has been revealed that many cases of gastric ulcer are caused by this Helicobacter pylori. Depending on the severity of the condition, symptoms are nausea, stomach aches, arthritis, neuralgia, fever, and diarrhea, which is sometimes bloody. The bacterium can also be involved in gastric cancer development, and there is suspicion that it may be involved autoimmune diseases and chronic skin diseases.
Cholera (Vibrio cholerae 01 og 0139 og Vibrio el Tor)
Cholera is a severe form of diarrhoea, caused by bacteria that can be transmitted to humans with flies and polluted drinking water, raw, untreated fish, vegetables, milk, ice-cream and other unboiled foodstuffs that are polluted with human faeces in one way or other. Bad sewerage, breaks to the sewers and drains in inhabited areas is an important part of the spreading of the disease. Pollution of the drinking water can cause epidemics.
Symptoms are present 1 - 5 days after contamination. Fever or stomach ache are rare symptoms; most often the only symptoms are vomiting and violent, golden-brown, rice water-like diarrhea, up to 10 - 12 litres a day. This can cause a severe fluid loss, amounting to up to 15 litres a day, and cause dehydration. Untreated, cholera can be deadly.
The areas where the risk of infection are largest are Africa, India, The Middle East, tropical parts of South America, Eastern Europe, and the East (Japan). Periodical outbreakes can occur world wide.
Escherichia coli (E. Coli-bacteria)
Normally found in the large intestine, where it is an important part of the natural flora. There a several different ways in which it can become pathogenic, however:
By dammage to the peritoneum, either in relation to disease, as PGS, Permeable Gut Syndrome, or following an operation, the bacteria can penetrate the abdominal cavity through the operation scar and cause peritonitis or abscesses.
If toxin producing E.Coli contaminates food, as it sometimes happens by an accident in a slaughterhouse or a restaurant, the bacteria can cause gastro-intestinal inflammation. This is usually the etiology of the so-called "travelling diarrhea" that often accompanies trips to foreign countries.
It can also cause other kinds of infection in the gastro-intestinal mucosa, like appendicitis and it can cause blood poisoning. E. Coli can also cause cystitis, and in rare cases also pneumonia and meningitis in infants.
Legionellosis ("Legionnaire's Disease")
Legionella Pneumophila is a gram-negative bacillus, found in most areas near to a supply of fresh-water. They prosper between temperatures of 20 - 45 degrees C. Therefore, they are often found in the fresh-water supply, in watertanks, and -pipes, in the shower or the tub, sprinkler equipment, or irrigation plants, but they can also culture in ventilating plants.
Breathing of aqueous vapour infected with Legionella can cause Legionnaire's disease.
Immuno-deficient patients can develop a severe pnemonia. The symptoms are pains in the chest, muscle pains, headache, and a high fever. If left untreated, Legionnaire's disease has a mortality of 15%, but it can also cause milder, flu-like symptoms. Legionella is not transmitted by contact infection. Heating of the water to 63 degrees C kills Legionella bacteria.
Legionella is derived from the word "legionnaire", because of an outbreak in 1976 among the members of the "American Legion" at a convention for war veterans.
Caused by the paratyphoid bacteria, this is one of the most serious salmonella infections. The disease resembles typhoid fever in many ways (see below), but the course is usually briefer and the symptoms milder - especially if the patient has caught the disease in Western Europe (type B). Type A and C prevail in the rest of the world. Larger doses of infectious matter is neccessary for disease development than in the case of typhoid fever. This is why Paratyphoid fever is rarely transmitted by contaminated water. Humans are infected by eating contaminated food, dairy products, and ice-cream.
The incubation period is 8 - 12 days. Cases of relaps after complete recovery is more rare than in the case of typhoid fever, but the frequency and number of healthy carriers are comparable. Complications are rare. Also see Typhoid fever and the recommendations for Paratyphoid fever further below.
Salmonella typhimurium (Enteris acuta Salmonellosa)
This bacteria is part of the natural flora of the intestine of wild animals and birds, as well as that of domestic animals. It is found in the water and in the soil and air.
Two types of salmonella are especially prone to infect humans: Salmonella typhimurium, which is found in the intestine of birds, pigs and cattle, and Salmonella enteridis which is found mostly in birds. Humans are infected by eating poultry, milk, and eggs that have not received sufficient heating, as well as food-products from these sources, such as mayonnaise. If you keep turtles as pets, your risk of salmonella is elevated. This is also to some degree true of snakes and other lizards, which have become popular pets. Even though these animals have salmonella in their intestines, they do not become sick themselves, but leave the bacteria behind in their faeces.
The symptoms of the salmonella infection are, depending on the type and infectious load: fever, nausea, vomiting, stomach ache, and water-filled, slimy diarrhoea.
Precautions are: To make sure that meat and other animal provisions are cooked until they are thoroughly done, to uphold a high overall hygeinic standard in the kitchen, and specifically to make sure that raw meat does not come into contact with other provisions in the kitchen.
Salmonella DT 104 is a multiresistant version of Salmonella typhimurium.
Shigella dysentery (Bacterial dysentery, Shigellosis)
Also known as the Shiga bacterium, it is the cause of bacterial dysentery. It is transmitted from person to person, from hand to hand and from hand to mouth, through faeces and provisions.
The incubation period is 2 - 8 days. The bacteria infect the mucosa of the colon and rectum, causing severe problems. A severe case of Shigellosis can lead to 10 - 25 slimy stools a day, together with headache, a high fever, abdominal pains, and pains during defecation. The fluid loss can be severe and have serious effects. The disease prevails in Europe, in the tropics, and in The Unites States. The most abundant type that causes diarrhea, Type 1 is most common in the tropics. Type 1 bacteria liberate a toxin, which is extremely toxic to the central nervous system. It can cause shock, delirium, confusion, and even death. When travelling to the tropics one should take precautions against Type 1 shigellosis, since the disease is still widespread in the 3rd world.
Also see under "Amoebic dysentery" under "Parasite infection".
Caused by Salmonella typhi or Salmonella enteridis, typhoid fever is the most serious human salmonellosis. The infectious source is convalescing patients or chronic carriers, but the disease is spread primarily through ingestion of contaminated water and food. Insufficient heating and unhygeinic preparation of provisions, especially ice-cream, clams and oysters, and drinking water, along with overall bad hygeinic standards is the prime reason for the great dissemination of the disease in Africa, Asia, and the Far East. Africa is the primary risk-zone, but the disease exists in all countries of the world.
The incubation period is usually 10 - 12 days, during which the bacteria multiply at high rates. They enter the bloodstream and disseminate to and proliferate in many organs, and gradually a high fever (about 40 degrees C) develops, along with loss of appetite, constipation, cough, muscle pains, and strong headaches. Stomach ache, diarrhoea, and a pink rash are other frequent symptoms. Especially the liver, kidneys, and spleen are affected by the infection, but the skin and bone marrow are also frequent targets of this bacterium.
After a few weeks the bacteria will typically invade the colon; the fever persists around approximately 40 degrees C, but at this point the stomach and spleen become distended, and the patient grows increasingly more distant, confused and tired
A soup-like diarrhoea develops and there may be blood in the feaces. After the 4th week the temperature falls gradually, and the patient usually recovers. However, the course of the disease is extremely variable, alternating between uncomplicated cases and lethal infections.
Most importantly, the fluid loss, which is often substantial, contribute to the seriousness of the disease, along with the high occurence of complications. These can vary from intestinal perforation that can cause peritonitis and intestinal bleeding and requires blood transfusion, to cholecystitis and inflammation of the bones, lungs, kidneys, testicles, or embolies, abscesses, meningitis, myocarditis, otitis media, and hemolysis.
In addition, 10-15% of untreated, convalescent patients relapse around 2 weeks after temperature normalization.
Yersinosis is caused by Yersina enterocolica and Yersinia pseudotuberculosis and causes diarrhoea, and granulomas and abcesses in the lymphoid tissues and the liver (Yersinia pseudotuberculosis). Yersina pestis causes the human plague. Yersinia bacteria are found in the intestinal systems of wild and domestic animals. Yersinia pestis usually infects rodents like squirrels and ground squirrels, mice, and rats and is transmitted by direct contact (droplet infection) or more commonly by fleas (fleabites). Yersinia enterocholica also infects a variety of cultivated animals like sheep, cattle, dogs and cats, while Yersina pseudotuberculosis in addition to these species frequently infecting birds such as turkeys, geese, ducks, pigeons, and canaries. Yersinia enterocolica and Yersinia pseudotuberculosis are transmitted by the faeco-oral route (water or provisions contaminated with faeces containing the bacteria, or from hand to mouth in poor hygienic behaviour) and have been isolated from the drinking water and from milk. These species cause diarrhoea which can be bloody, along with fever and abdominal pain, and abcesses as decribed above. However, many infections are subclinical. Arthralgia, arthritis, and erythema are complications. Septicaemia is a rare complication.
Yersinia pestis is the reason for the plague, "the black death" of the middle age. 2 - 8 days after a bite from an infected flea, bubonic plague begins with chills, fever, nausea, vomiting, and rapid respiration and pulse. A painful lymph node (bubo) in the area of the flea bite enlarges, and becomes the center of infection, undergoing a series of destructive changes in cell and tissue morphology. These include hemorrhage, necrosis (tissue-death) and granulomas, which are solid masses of bacteria. From here, the infection is dessiminated to other lymph nodes and by subcutaneous bleeding, and the black death can follow from blood poisoning. Yersinia pestis can also enter the bloodstream directly, by contact between open wounds and infectious material for example as in primary systemic plague, or the bacteria can infect the lungs by inhalation of infectious material as in primary pneumonic plague. All of these manifestions are extremely severe and a large percentage of the patients will die if left untreated. However, the bacteria respond well to antibiotic treatment, especially if started early, and many patients will achieve full recovery. America, Africa, and Asia are endemic areas and the disease is extremely rare in the rest of the world. The other types of yersinia bacteria are widely distributed and cause yersinosis in most parts of the world.
In general, most bacterial diseases can be avoided by upholding high hygienic standards. Healthy people with functional immune systems and intact gastro-intestinal flora are rarely affected by bacterial infections. Therefore, it is important to stay healthy and an important part of doing so, is to follow a healthy, nutritional, and varied diet.
In general it is recommended to:
Always keep meat and vegetables separate from each other.
Wash your hands and kitchen utensils often.
Scald the carving board and knife after carving of raw poultry.
Uphold a refrigerator temperature of 4 degrees C. When food is cooled rapidly and kept cold the breeding capicity of bacteria is reduced substantially.
Make sure that provision and drinking water are heated sufficiently before use, especially in areas where cholera prevails.
Protect food against infection from disease carrying animals.
Uphold high hygienic standards in bathrooms.
When travelling, the following recommendations should be followed:
Never drink tap water! This also goes for diluted fruit syrup and juice, as well as ice cubes.
Only eat "safe" provisions and drink purified water. The water should be purified by filtration or by use of iodine or ascorbic acid tablets, and should not be treated with chloride.
Eat plenty of garlic and herbs containing berberine, such as goldenseal, Hydrastis canadensis and barberry bark or rod, ginger, and Pau D'arco. Ginger has been documented to limit the growth of all known bacteria and reduce toxin production.
Berberine limits the production of toxins and is therefore good for diarrhoea diseases caused by toxin-producing E. coli, dysentery, cholera, Salmonella, Shigella, which can all be avoided by eating hygienically prepared food and drinking purified water mixed with berberine.
- Fresh ginger (Zingiber officinale), can limit the growth of this bacterium.
- Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris)*: The extract can kill an antibiotic resistant strain of the bacteria Staphyloccocus aureus (MSRA)
- Horse-heal (Inula helenium): The extract can kill an antibiotic resistant strain of the bacteria Staphyloccocus aureus (MSRA)
Streptococcus (Streptococcus viridans)
Fresh ginger ( Zingiber officinale), also limits the growth of these bacteria.
The best prophylactic measurement is to avoid contact with animal products, such as souvenirs made from bone, leather, fur or horn, and to stay away from meat from herbivores. Conventionally, Anthrax is treated with broad spectrum antibiotics as penicillin or tetracyclines.
A strong immune system and a functional gastro-intestinal flora will supply the neccesary protection against disease. However, one should only eat freshly prepared and steaming hot rice, especially when travelling.
The extremely toxic botulism bacteria can be destroyed by only a few minutes of boiling. One should take precautions in the form of proper conservation of home-salted heering, insufficiently conserved provisions and outdated tinned food. The use of fresh ginger, Zingiber officinale, in the food limits the growth of the bacteria.
Clostridium tetani (Tetanus bacillus)
Avoid contact by wounds, cuts, and insect stings/bites with soil and dirt
Diphteria (Diphteria bacillus)
Sufficient protection is offered by a well-functioning immune system. Otherwise, berberine-containing herbs, Echinecea, and garlic can be used as prophylactics. Echinacea can also be used as treatment. Conventionally, diphteria is treated with large doses of antibiotics as penicillin or erytromycin together with anti-toxic serum and prevented by vaccination (as part of the Di-Te-Pol vaccine.
Leprosy (Mycobacterium leprae)
A functional immune system will offer the needed protection against leprosy. Garlic is recommended for people who are exposed to infection on a daily basis. There is no effective vaccine against the disease, but three types of conventional treatments are offered.
Tuberculosis (Mycobacterium tuberculosis, -bovis)
The best prophylactic measurement is a healthy and functioning immune system. Herbs containing berberine, such as Pau D'arco and garlic can also be used as prophylaxis. The herb Chirette, Swertia chirata, the stalk of ginger, Zingiber officinale, and sage, Salvia miltiorrhiza (Dan shen) all limit the growth of tubercle bacteria and protects against disease development.
Conventionally, tuberculosis is treated with antibiotics. An effective vaccine is offered. The treatment of tuberculosis is long and difficult, lasting up to 6 months.
Meningococci are normally killed by antibiotics. In spite of this, mortality varies between 50-70% in some places, and is even higher in infected infants. A vaccine is offered against type A and C, but no vaccine is available against type B.
The conventional treatment is a combination of different antibiotics. Some herbs do however have a good chance of inhibiting the growth of Helicobacter if treatment is sustained for six to eight weeks. The relevant herbs are Rhubarb root (Rheum palmatum radix), Golden Seal (Hydrastis canadensis), Garlic (Allium sativum) and crushed cloves (Eugenia caryophyllata). Green tea and not least a supplement of lactic acid bacteria are also effective against Helicobacter .
For prevention, the food and drinking water should be heated sufficiently when travelling to foreign countries, and one should uphold high hygienic standards when using bathrooms. Remember to wash your hands often and thoroughly in endemic areas.
Garlic and herbs that contain berberine, such as Goldenseal, Hydrastis canadensis, or Barberry bark or -rod are very effective against bacterial infections and is an effective treatment of the severe diarrhoea that accompanies cholera. Ginger, Zingiber officinale, can also be used both prophylactically and in the treatment of infections.
Rehydration by intravenous administration of fluid is crucial, since it is impossible orally to replace the severe fluid loss. The treatment is otherwise the same as for other cases of diarrhoea (see above) which is plenty of water and replacement of lost electrolytes, primarily salt.
Homeopathic antidotes and Arsenicum album D6 is used for prevention and as treatment.
Conventionally, antibiotic treatment is offered. A vaccine is offered against the traditional type of cholera, but it only offers 30 - 50% protection, and can therefore create a false sense of security. There is no available vaccine against the Asian type of cholera.
Escherichia coli (E. Coli-bacteria)
Fresh ginger, Zingiber officinale, limits the growth of this bacterium. Cinnamon, Cinnamomum verum, is quite effective at killing coli bacteria.
Legionaire's disease (Legionella)
Some bacteria prosper in the warm-water supply; an example of these is Legionella. A mild manifestation of a Legionella infection by order of this type of transmission is skin problems after showering in water infected with Legionella. To overcome this problem, one has to clean the water container every now and then. Water that has been standing in water tanks for a long period should be rinsed away. If you have a water container, you should increase the temperature of the container to at least 63 degrees C, and preferably 75 degrees C. This temperature has to be kept for at least 48 hours in order to kill the bacteria.
Requires no specific treatment. Paratyphus can be avoided and treated with berberine-containing herbs such as Barberry bark or -rod or Goldenseal, Hydrastis canadensis. Homeopathic Arsenicum album D6 is also used prophylactically as well as in disease treatment. Berberine, garlic, or homeopathic antidotes can also be used as prophylaxis. The conventional treatment is antibiotics.
The best prophylaxis against a Salmonella infection is a well-functioning immune system, and an intact bacterial flora. Garlic and lactic acid bacteria taken at a daily basis - also when travelling - can be used both for preventing and treating the infection. Acute infections can be treated with lactic acid bacteria every half hour. Fresh Ginger, Zingiber officinale, can also be used both as seasoning or tea to limit the growth of the bacterium
The bacteria are killed at a temperature of 68 degrees C. To be certain that all bacteria have been eliminated, one should heat the food to a minimum temperature of 75 degrees C. It is therefore important to heat the food until it is well-done. One can use a cooking thermometre to make sure that all meat have been heated sufficiently.
If you have to use raw egg, the safest thing to do is to buy the pasteurized kind. Scalding of eggs for 15 - 20 seconds removes the Salmonella bacteria from the shield, but the egg itself can still contain several millions of bacteria per ml.
If you have pet turtles, snakes, or other lizards you should keep good hygiene. This means washing your hands immediately after you have touched them and keeping their cages clean. Avoid kissing them!
Typhoid fever (Febris typhoidea)
The patient has to be kept in isolation, until 3 succeeding tests on faecal material are proven bacterio-negative. If bacteria continue to be excreted after 6 months of infection, the patient is regarded a chronical disease carrier. Fluid, salt, and sugar supplementation is important, and blood transfusion can be neccessary. The disease can be prevented by ingestion of berberine-containing herbs, such as Goldenseal, Hydrastis canadensis, and Barberry bark or -rod, garlic in large doses, and homeopathic remedies (antidotes).
Dysentery: see Shigella dysentery (bacterial dysentery) below. Also see parasites; Amoeba dysentery (Dysentheria entamoebicae histolytica).
Shigella dysentery (Bacterial dysentery)
Prevention is based both on a well-functioning gastro-intestinal system and immune sytem.
Pau D'arco and berberine-containing herbs can be taken prophylactically in risk zones. Schisandra, Schisandra chinensis, counteracts the development of diarrhoea and has a protective effect on the liver. Shigella bacteria are extremely fragile; they are intolerant to drought, acidic environments, and temperatures above 37 degrees C. Dysentery can be difficult to diagnose because of the many focuses of the disease. The diagnose is supported by examination of faecal material. The treatment depends on the particular type of dysentery involved. When dysentery is caused by bacteria, as in this case, the conventional treatment is antibiotics. There is no available vaccine.
The best prevention is a healthy and functioning immune system. Historically, ginger, Zingiber officinale, has been used as a remedy against the plague. Conventionally, a vaccine is offered.
In general, the conventional treatment against most bacterial infections is still antibiotic treatment, although resistance and hypersensitivity towards penicillin are growing global problems. When bacteria become resistent towards a certain form of antibiotics, this treatment no longer works to destroy them. Therefore, as different treatments cease to be effective, new ones have to be invented, and in a number of cases, this proves to be less than easy.
Bacteria can recognise the particular type of medical treatment (after at least one treatment) and change their composition. Plasmides are small pieces of genetic material that can be transmitted from one bacterial species to another. An example of this is seen in relation to antibiotic treatment. Penicillins work by destroying the bacterial cell wall. As a consequence of plasmid transmission, the ability to produce Penicillinasis, can be induced in a particular bacterial species. Penicillinasis inactivates the penicillin molecule and makes the bacterium less sensitive to the compound.
In cases of diarrhoea lasting for more than 1 week you should be examined by a doctor.
*Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris) can be poisonous. Always use under the direction of a qualified health care provider.
"Travelling diarrhoea" is most often caused by Cryptosporidians and Norwalk- and Rotavirus.
Also see "Anthrax", "Diarrhoea and increased peristaltics", "Parasite infection", "Tiredness","Tropical diseases", and "Viral infection".