How an infectious disease is treated depends on the microbe that caused it and sometimes on the age and medical condition of the person affected. Certain diseases are not treated at all, but are allowed to run their course, with the immune system doing its job alone. Some diseases, such as the common cold, are treated only to relieve the symptoms.Others,such as strep throat, are treated to destroy the offending microbe as well as to relieve symptoms.
BY YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
Your immune system has an arsenal of ways to fight off invading microbes. Most begin with B and T cells and antibodies whose sole purpose is to keep your body healthy. Some of these cells sacrifice their lives to rid you of disease and restore your body to a healthy state. Some microbes normally present in your body also help destroy microbial invaders. For example, normal bacteria,such as lactobacillus in your digestive system, help destroy disease-causing microbes. Other important ways your body reacts to an infection
include fever and coughing and sneezing.
Fever is one of your body ís special ways of fighting an infectious disease. Many microbes are very sensitive to temperature changes and cannot survive in temperatures
higher than normal body heat, which is usually around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Your body uses fever to destroy flu viruses, for example.
Coughing and sneezing
Another tool in your immune system ís reaction to invading infection-causing microbes is mucus production. Coughing and sneezing help mucus move those germs out of your body efficiently and quickly. Other methods your body may use to fight off an
infectious disease include
BY YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER
The last century saw an explosion in our knowledge about how microbes work and in our methods of treating infectious diseases. For example, the discovery of antibiotics to treat and cure many bacterial diseases was a major breakthrough in medical history.Doctors,however, sometimes prescribe antibiotics unnecessarily for a variety
of reasons,including pressure from patients with viral infections.Patients may insist on being prescribed an antibiotic without knowing that it won ít work on viruses.
Colds and flu are two notable viral infections for which some doctors send their patients to the drugstore with a prescription for an antibiotic. Because antibiotics have been overprescribed or inappropriately prescribed for many years,bacteria have become resistant to the killing effects of these drugs.This resistance,called antibiotic or drug resistance,has become a very serious problem,especially in hospital settings. Bacteria that are not killed by the antibiotic become strong enough to resist the same medicine the next time it is given.Because bacteria multiply so rapidly,changed or mutated bacteria that resist antibiotics will quickly outnumber those that can be destroyed by those same
Viral diseases can be very difficult to treat because viruses live inside your body ís cells where they are protected from medicines in the bloodstream.Researchers developed the first antiviral drug in the late 20th century.The drug, acyclovir,was first approved by the Only a few other antiviral medicines are available to prevent and treat viral infections and diseases. Health care providers treat HIV infection with a group of powerful medicines that can keep the virus in check. Known as highly active antiretroviral therapy,or HAART, this treatment has improved the lives of many suffering from this deadly infection.
Viral diseases should never be treated with antibiotics. Sometimes a person with a viral disease will develop a bacterial disease as a complication of the initial viral disease.For example,children with chickenpox often scratch the skin lesions (sores)caused by the viral infection.Bacteria such as staph can enter those lesions and cause a bacterial infection.The doctor may then prescribe an antibiotic to destroy the bacteria.The antibiotic,however,will not work on the chickenpox virus.It will work only against staph.
Although safe and effective treatments and cures for most viral diseases have eluded researchers,there are safe vaccines to protect you from viral infections and diseases.
Medicines applied directly to the infected area are available by prescription and over the counter for treating skin and nail fungal infections.Unfortunately,many people have had limited success with them.During the 1990s,oral prescription medicines became available for treating fungal infections of the skin and nails. For many years,very powerful oral antifungal medicines were used only to treat systemic (within the body)fungal
infections,such as histoplasmosis.Doctors usually prescribe oral antifungal medications cautiously because all of them,even the milder medicines for skin and nail fungi,can have very serious side effects.
Diseases caused by protozoan parasites are among the leading causes of death and disease in tropical and subtropical regions of the world.Developing countries within these areas contain three-quarters of the world ís population,and their people suffer the most from these diseases.Controlling parasitic diseases is a problem because there are no vaccines for any of them. In many cases,controlling the insects that transmit these diseases is difficult because of pesticide resistance, concerns regarding environmental damage,and lack of adequate public health systems to apply existing insect- control methods.Thus,disease control relies heavily on the availability of medicines.Health care providers usually use antiparasitic medicines to treat protozoal infections.Unfortunately,there are very few medicines that fight protozoa,and some of those are either harmful to humans or are becoming ineffective.
The fight against the protozoan Plasmodium falciparum ,the cause of the most deadly form of malaria,is a good example.This protozoan has become resistant to most of the medicines currently available to destroy it.A major focus of malaria research is on developing a vaccine to prevent people from getting the disease.In the meantime,many
worldwide programs hope to eventually control malaria by keeping people from contact with infected mosquitoes or preventing infection if contact can ít be avoided.