Infection & Disease

Lecture 11 [Notes]

Distinctions are often made as to the type and duration of infectious 
organisms that infect the body of host organisms.

Normal or Resident Flora - organisms that are constantly present in or on 
the body; normally they exist in homeostatic balance with the host and do 
not cause disease; however, they must be taken into consideration during 
operations that pierce or depress the body defenses and represent ever 
present sources of potential contamination.

Transient Flora - organisms that reside in or on us for varying lengths of
time; they may or may not cause disease dependent upon the resistance of 
the host and the virulence of the organism. 

The best known method for attempting to determine the causal agent of 
disease was set forth by Robert Koch. At the time he promulgated his 
postulates they represented a logical set of guidelines. As general rules 
of protocol they are still useful but we are now aware of many exceptions 
to Koch's Postulates.

1. The organism that is causing the disease should always be present in 
diseased animals and absent in healthy animals.

Exception to Postulate 1 - organisms responsible for disease symptoms may 
be part of the resident flora and constantly present
2. The organism causing the disease must be isolated and grown in pure 
culture in the laboratory (on artificial media).

Exception to Postulate 2 - certain organisms have never been cultured 
successfully on artificial laboratory media - syphilis, leprosy

3. A pure culture of the disease producing organism, when inocu-
lated into healthy, susceptible animals, should cause the disease

Exception to Postulate 3 - humans are not experimental animals and with 
the exception of laboratory accidents this postulate cannot be applied 
to humans; a reaction may not occur in the host if it has been previously 
sensitized and possesses protective antibodies

4. The pathogen must again be isolated from the inoculated animal and 
shown to be the original organism.

Exception to Postulate 4 - the organism may have been cleared from the 
system as the result of antibody activity or the symptoms may be caused
by toxins produced by an organism which is now dead or out of the body

Koch's Postulates were designed with the idea that there was one and only 
one organism responsible for a given set of symptoms. This is the highest 
level of specificity and it was thought that if this were true then a single 
type of chemical agent would be found or needed to cure each given disease. 
As we shall see there are many levels of specificity.

A. specific disease - specific organism -- one and only one
   organism causes a distinct set of unique symptoms, e.g.
   Treponema pallidum,Corynebacterium diphtheriae, Clostridium tetani
B. general symptoms - several organisms -- similar symptoms are
   elicited from a variety of organisms; most inflammatory reac-
   tions fall into this category; e.g. nephritis, meningitis,
   endocarditis, peritonitis may be caused by Escherichia coli,
   Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus faecalis, Pseudomonas sp.

C. several diseases - single organism -- one organism may be
   responsible for causing more than one particular disease; e.g.
   Mycobacterium tuberculosis can cause pulmonary 
   tuberculosis or infections of the skin, bones, or internal organs

To be pathogenic, a microorganism must in some way cause harm to the host. 
In most cases, a definite sequence of events occurs during infection and 

	1. transfer of the parasite to the host (DISPERSAL)
	2. entry of the parasite into the host's tissues and an
        increase in the number of parasites (INVASION)
	3. injury to the host (PATHOGENICITY)
	4. response of the host to the presence of the parasite

The spread of infectious microorganisms through a population depends upon a 
number of factors including the reservoir of infection of the microbes. 
These reservoirs may be classified as:human, animal, inanimate or non-living.

   a. Human reservoirs - all human beings carry microbes capable
of disease transmission under certain conditions; some indivi-
duals harbor pathogens and transmit them to others but do not  
show any symptoms of the disease organism themselves; these individuals, 
called CARRIERS, fall into one of three categories -
you will recognize yourself in one or more of these situations.

	1. healthy carriers - harbors infectious agents of disease
	   but suffers no ill effects - best known example is Mary
	   Mallon alias Typhoid Mary; many of us carry Group A
	   streptococci in our nose and throat

	2. incubatory carrier - may be infectious in later stages;
	   only preliminary symptoms are present; e.g. sore throat,
	   low grade fever - usually not enough to stop us from     
	   going to work and spreading the organisms; symptoms of
	   German measles virus do not show up until after the 
	   infectious stage of the disease - we unwittingly spread
	   it to others.
	3. convalescent carrier - serve as a source of infection 
	   while recovering; even though we are not completely 
	   recovered we may go back to work out of misguided loyalty
	   or fear of tyrannical employers or supervisors.

   b. Animal reservoirs - usually called ZOONOSES or ZOONOTIC infections; 
      these are disease organisms which primarily affect lower animals but 
      can be transmitted to humans by natural means such as fur, hides, 
      feathers, consumption of infected animal products; domesticated 
      animals are lively source of zoonoses

   c. Non-living or inanimate reservoirs are sometimes called
      FOMITES and can include pencils, pens, money, eating utensils, 
      bottles, toys (dolls), postage stamps, door handles, linens,  
      towels, clothing, toilet articles, papers, magazines, to name but a 


Common Sources of Pathogens
	Human patients
	Human Carriers
Some Materials which may contain Pathogens
	Skin, Scales, Scabs, Hair, Animal Flesh, Sputum
	Droplets, Discharge from wounds, lesions, blood,
	urethra, vagina, feces, urine, eggs, milk
Common Means of Transfer
	Direct contact, Fomites, Air, Dust
	Insects, Food, Water, Soil
Common Portals of Entry into New Hosts
	Skin - usually via abrasions, wounds, burns, bites, glands
          and hair follicles
	Respiratory Tract - following inhalation
	Alimentary Canal - following ingestion
	Genital Tract - following sexual intercourse

Transmission is often characterized as either:

   A. Mechanical - insects or other vectors physically transport
	 a pathogen from contaminated materials such as food or 
	 water to other objects (cockroaches, flies)
	 food, fingers, flies, feces, fomites, fornication, fluids, 
	 felines, feet, fleas, feathered friends, fingernails, fish,

   B. Biological - a portion of the pathogen's life cycle is 
	 carried out in the vector (_ anopheline mosquito and the
	 malarial parasite); transmission is affected by injection 
	 of blood or blood products, warm-blooded animal bites, 
	 arthropod bites, introduction of arthropod feces into bites
	 or wounds

It is conventional to divide infectious diseases into those that are 
ENDEMIC, i.e. always present to some extent in the community and EPIDEMIC, 
i.e. showing a sharp increase or concentration of cases in time and space. 
The term PANDEMIC is often used to describe a world-wide or widely 
distributed epidemic.

In a well adjusted host-parasite relationship, subclinical infection is 
the rule, disease the exception, and death a rarity.

An epidemic in the popular sense of the word is merely the prevalence of a 
particular type of infection which appears to be unusually concentrated in 
a defined area within a prescribed time period.

The rate of spread of an epidemic at any moment is not only a function of 
the number or density of susceptible persons avail-able, but of the number
of sources of the infection as well.

Epidemiology - is the study of the distributions and determinants of 
diseases prevalent in humans.

	Morbidity - number of individuals having the disease per 
	unit of population (usually 100,000) within a given time 	

	Mortality - the number of deaths attributable to a particular 
        disease per unit of population (usually 1,000) within
	a given time period.


   Certain characteristics of an infectious disease virtually rule out the 
possibility of world-wide eradication.

1. Infections of wild animals and birds where human infection results from 
intrusion into an alien ecosystem, e.g. jungle yellow fever, scrub typhus, 

2. Infections that persist throughout the life of the carrier and are 
transmissible to others years after they were originally contracted. The 
two common human examples are Herpes simplex and 
Varicella-Herpes zoster.

3. Infections spread by the respiratory route in which the disease in 
question may be produced by viruses of many antigenic types. Certainly for 
influenza and probably in regards to the common cold viruses, such agents 
also have a high capacity to change antigenic character by mutation. This 
phenomenum of antigenic drift is particularly important in influenza.

4. Infections in which it is socially impossible to obtain public 
cooperation because they are seen as social and not medical problems.
Venereal or sexually transmitted diseases (STD's) are the most common

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