At least once during a lifetime, every human being goes through an episode of infection. This experience makes you meet a doctor and receive treatment, unless you yourself is a health care professional in which case you yourself can prescribe the medication. Sometimes returning home after receiving treatment, you might wonder why you were asked to take anti-fungals, without being given antibiotics. If that is the case, you have probably been diagnosed with a fungal infection, not something bacterial, because antibiotics treat only bacterial infections.
In the clinical aspect, most health care professionals can differentiate fungal infections from bacterial. In this article we are going to discuss what fungi and bacteria are and how they differ from each other in affecting people and their main differences.
What is a bacterial infection?
Bacteria are a living group of organism which don’t necessarily need to invade host cells in order to replicate. They choose tissues which they like to live in, similar to virus, and absorb nutrients from the host tissue, secrete toxins which kill the host cells or replicate inside the host cells resulting in various infections in the affected individual.
The commonest example for a bacterial infection which invades human cells, in a spur of a second includes E.coli O157:H7, a specific strain of E.coli which gives rise to food poisoning. Some E.coli do not cause any harm to humans, but this particular strain secretes a powerful toxin, leading to vomiting and diarrhea which can be fatal if left untreated.
Bacteria can enter the skin through openings. Also, diminished circulation which reduces the body’s ability to maintain its defense mechanisms to fight against an infection, can also increase the risk of getting such. This is why bacterial infections are commoner in patients with diabetics, chronic smokers and the elderly. Furthermore, a poor immunity which can also occur due to the above reasons can increase the chances of getting infections.
E.g. HIV-AIDS patient and patients on cortico-steroidal drugs
Antibiotics like Penicillin, Local wound care and proper maintenance of a good hygiene and surgery in severe cases (bone and joint infections) are the main modalities of treatments for those who have been affected by Bacterial infections.
What is fungal infection?
A fungus can be considered as a primitive organism which grows up in air, in soil and in water. Few examples for fungi are mushrooms and mildew. There are some fungi which live in the human body among which few of them aren’t harmful to the body at all. They mainly reproduce through the spores in the air and when they land on a person or else enters into the body through inhalation they would start multiplying either on skin or in lungs.
The ability of becoming prone to fungal infection is high when a person is having a weak immune system or on antibiotics.
It isn’t easy to kill fungi, since they are highly resistant to most of the chemicals. Fungal infections of the skin are usually treated topically with cream, powder, spray, oils, ointment and oral drugs can be used for areas where the drugs find it difficult-to-penetrate e.g. nails or when the condition doesn’t respond to oral treatments.
What is the difference between bacterial infection and fungal infection?
Bacteria consists of two major types as Eubacteria and Archaeabacteria whereas Fungi exist as a single species known as parasitic eukaryotes. Most of the fungi are either unicellular yeasts or filamentous molds.
More importantly, neither Antibiotics which are used to treat bacterial infections work against fungal infections nor anti-fungal medications used against Fungi work against bacteria.
Bacterial diseases - Tetanus, Botulism, and Gastroenteritis.
Fungal infections - Candidiasis, Ringworm infections and Jock itch
-The writer is a Medical Student
Take home message:
It is always encouraged to seek proper medical advice without self-diagnosing and self-prescribing antibiotics for each and every infection-like symptoms you get. Because the ultimate result of misdiagnosis and wrong treatment would be really frustrating. This is particularly true when fungal or viral infections are treated with antibiotics, paving the way for human friendly bacteria to turn into harmful pathogens and increase the population of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
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