Microbiology is the science which deals with the study of microbes. Medical microbiology is the field of medicine which deals with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of infectious diseases. Bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites are the main microorganisms of focus.
Medical microbiology is a recognized specialty in the UK. In other parts of the world including the United States infectious disease specialists and physicians who don’t specialize treat a number of infectious diseases though. Therefore, knowledge of some of the basic terms having to do with medical microbiology is important to patients. It improves communication in health care. It also is critical to the understanding of literature and other forms of information pertaining to infectious diseases. The increase in the prevalence of these types of diseases as evident in the news, underscores the importance of the latter.
Antibiotic – An agent that destroys or subdues the growth or multiplication of bacteria. Various ones are products of microorganisms. The main producers of them are bacteria, fungi and molds. There are medications used to treat humans and some animals.
Antimicrobial – An agent that kills or suppresses the growth or multiplication of microbes. Antibiotics, antifungals and antivirals all belong to this general category.
Antifungal – An antimicrobial that kills or suppresses the growth or multiplication of fungi.
Bacterium – Bacteria pl. – Bacterial adj. – Any of the microorganisms which are single cells contained within a cell wall and which multiply by cell division. They do not have a true nucleus in that their DNA is not contained in a nuclear membrane.
Convalescent serum – Is the serum from a person who has recovered from an infection. It contains antibodies against microbes that caused the infection. Serum is the clear liquid portion of blood which separates upon clotting.
Protozoan – protozoa – pl. – protozoal – adj. – Single-cell organisms that are visible only with a microscope. They can be either free living or exist as parasites in humans. They might live in a human’s intestinal tract or blood. Their multiplication and humans allows them to survive and cause disease. There are four major groups based on how they move about.
Sepsis (Septicemia) – Is infection of the blood stream with signs and symptoms of the body’s response to it. In the strictest sense of the term, the pathogen that causes it is bacterial. But in a broader since, the term also applies to blood stream infection by other microbes such as fungi, viruses, and parasites. The condition differs from bacteremia in that the immune system goes into overdrive, so to speak, in its response to the infection. Manifestations may range from chills and fever to shock. It can be life-threatening depending upon the extent of the infection and the degree of the immune response.
Strain – A variant or subtype of a microorganism which has a particular feature or features. For example, there are three strains of influenza virus. They are A, B and C. The A and B subtypes cause seasonal epidemics of flu in the United States between October and May. The type C virus on the other hand rarely infects people and when it does tends to cause only mild disease.
Titer – Is a way of expressing of the concentration of a substance. It most commonly refers to the concentration of antibodies or virus in the blood. It is the maximum number of stepwise dilutions of serum at which the substance is detectable by a given test method. The higher the number of dilutions at which it is detectable the greater is its concentration in the body and vice versa.
Virus – Viral – Is an ultramicroscopic single-cell organism that replicates only within host cells. Many are pathogenic. They contain either DNA or RNA wrapped in a thin coat of protein – not in a true nucleus.