Bacterial Infection Definition

Abbreviated as SBI by Abbreviationfinder, a bacterial infection is a disease caused by the penetration of bacteria is caused in the human body. The skin, respiratory tract, and digestive tract are most commonly affected. Antibiotics are usually used to treat a bacterial infection.

What is a bacterial infection?

One speaks of a bacterial infection when potentially harmful bacteria enter the body in an active or passive way, multiply there and thereby trigger a wide variety of reactions in the organism.

These can range from harmless complaints that heal on their own to life-threatening diseases. The routes of infection are also very diverse and, in addition to contamination of food and the exchange of body fluids, also include droplet and smear infections.

The type and course of the bacterial infection depends on the bacteria involved and the physical constitution of the person affected.


A bacterial infection can always occur when disease-causing bacteria enter the body. This can be done in different ways:

Bacteria can penetrate the skin through wounds, enter the digestive organs with food, be absorbed by the mucous membranes after a droplet or smear infection or be transmitted during sexual intercourse. The pathogens that can cause a bacterial infection are mainly streptococci, staphylococci, enterobacteria, mycobacteria, campylobacteria and chlamydia.

There are also a large number of other types of bacteria that can be involved in infectious diseases. In many cases, poor hygiene is a major cause of bacterial infection.

Symptoms, ailments & signs

Depending on the causative agent, a bacterial infection can manifest itself through various symptoms, complaints and signs. In general, a bacterial infection manifests itself through a fever : a high body temperature, sweating, gastrointestinal complaints and tiredness are typical signs.

In addition, symptoms appear in the organs or tissues that are affected by the infection. So it can at a pneumonia to breathing difficulties, come and hoarseness during a bacterial throat infection by swallowing expressed. If you have a bladder infection, you experience pain when urinating. Itching, burning, redness and secondary infections can occur in the skin area.

Bacterial vaginosis can cause sharp pain and problems with intercourse or urination. Other possible symptoms are discharge, swollen lymph nodes, swelling on the skin and neck, eyelid swelling, facial edema, and external or internal bleeding. The symptoms always depend on the pathogen and the affected organs.

In any case, there is a strong feeling of illness that is associated with exhaustion, fatigue and difficulty concentrating. The physical and mental performance is greatly reduced during the period of the illness. Outwardly, bacterial infections can often be recognized by redness, paleness and an overall sickly appearance.

Diagnosis & course

A bacterial infection is usually diagnosed based on symptoms associated with the condition. These cover a very broad spectrum, as the most varied of body organs are affected and a large number of bacteria can cause diseases in humans.

The exact pathogen is determined in some cases with the help of laboratory diagnostics. For this purpose, depending on the illness, a smear is taken from the sick person, a small amount of secretion is obtained or blood is drawn. In the case of diffuse symptoms of the disease, increased levels of inflammation in the blood allow conclusions to be drawn about a possible bacterial infection. Depending on the organs affected and the pathogens involved, infectious diseases can take very different courses.

While some are barely noticeable and do not require any treatment, others have a high disease value or can even lead to death. The physical constitution of the respective person is also of great importance. In young and healthy people, even infections with comparatively aggressive bacteria can be harmless, while for a patient with a severely weakened immune system, even an otherwise harmless bacterial infection can be life-threatening.


A bacterial infection can lead to a variety of complications. First of all, there is a risk of a second infection from other pathogens. This puts additional strain on the immune system and exacerbates the existing symptoms. The exact effects of secondary infections depend on the health of the person affected.

A bacterial infection also increases the risk of lung and heart disease. Frequent secondary diseases are pneumonia, otitis media and myocarditis, but also abscesses, pulmonary edema and heart failure. Depending on the severity of the disease, a bacterial infection also increases the risk of circulatory shock.

Less often, the bacterial infection leads to life-threatening encephalitis with serious complications. The typical flu symptoms themselves are often also complicated. Fatigue and listlessness can lead to depression. Being bedridden during the infection can cause physical complaints such as muscle cramps and weight loss in addition to psychological ones.

Small children, the elderly and debilitated as well as pregnant women and people with chronic respiratory diseases are particularly susceptible to secondary symptoms after a bacterial infection. However, through rapid treatment by a doctor, complications can in most cases be avoided or at least reduced as far as possible.

When should you go to the doctor?

Most bacterial infections remain harmless and do not require medical attention. This applies in particular to colds, which in the case of a bacterial trigger are noticeable through colored mucus and the known symptoms. It is only advisable to see a doctor if the symptoms do not pass or worsen within a few days.

The same applies if the tonsils or the lungs are affected. Infections in this area usually require therapy with antibiotics, whereby these are usually prescribed by the family doctor.

If a cystitis is suspected, a urologist should be consulted even if the symptoms subside. A urine test must be used to determine whether the bacteria may have migrated to the kidneys.

In principle, a doctor should always be consulted if there is a (suspected) bacterial infection that causes severe symptoms or has not passed after a few days. A doctor should also be consulted in the event that another condition is already present. A weakened immune system increases the risk of serious bacterial infections.

In the case of serious illnesses that are known to have a bacterial trigger, it is often not clear to those affected that bacteria are involved. Since the possible illnesses and the severity of the symptoms can be so different in the case of a bacterial infection, going to the doctor is usually caused by the condition.

Treatment & Therapy

Many bacterial infections are so easy that they do not require medical treatment. Even in the case of clearly noticeable illnesses, it is often sufficient to alleviate the symptoms in otherwise healthy people, as the body’s immune system can fight the pathogens itself.

This is especially true for colds. In more severe cases, antibiotic treatment is indicated. These are drugs that have been developed to fight bacteria and other microorganisms.

In addition to broad-spectrum antibiotics, which are effective against a large number of pathogens, there are also agents that can be used specifically against a specific disease trigger. However, today there are more and more bacteria that have developed resistance to antibiotics. This often makes the treatment of a bacterial infection more difficult, especially in hospitals.

Outlook & forecast

Bacterial infections are extremely varied and the prognoses are accordingly. With all bacterial infections, however, early treatment improves the prognosis. Local infections also heal better than spreading infections. In addition, there are areas in the human body that are particularly often attacked by (harmless) bacteria.

Most bacterial infections are harmless and can be treated with medication. The prognosis still depends on the general health of the person concerned. For example, secondary bacterial infections are something that worsens the prognosis for the disease that is already present. If the immune system of the person affected is restricted by their illness, medication or environmental influences, an actually harmless infection can also take a severe course. This is especially true when the body’s own bacteria lead to an infection.

A bacterial infection that systematically affects the body (blood poisoning, spread across several organs, etc.) can often be fatal or cause the loss of organ functions. Here, too, the prognosis depends on the administration of antibiotics.

Bacterial infections that lead to meningitis are also associated with a poorer prognosis. It should also be noted that the condition may worsen despite antibiotics being administered. This is possible if the affected bacteria develop resistance and requires other treatment methods.


In most cases, bacterial infections can be easily prevented by maintaining adequate hygiene. Many pathogens that one comes into contact with in everyday life can be eliminated through regular personal hygiene and, in particular, thorough hand washing.

Appropriate hygiene measures are also important when preparing food. During sexual intercourse, the transmission of bacterial and other pathogens can be prevented by using condoms. Vaccinations are now also available against some bacterial diseases.

However, their effect is usually limited in time. Some of these also work against the toxins produced by the bacteria in question, rather than the bacterial infection itself.


Follow-up care is important if you have a bacterial infection. It is very important for two reasons. On the one hand, it should be prevented that the infection flares up again and then possibly leads to complications. One example is the involvement of the heart after a flu-like infection. On the other hand, it is also about regenerating the body weakened by a bacterial infection and thus regenerating it and making it resilient for the demands of everyday life.

The bacterial infection can affect different areas such as the airways and the gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, the measures for aftercare are always slightly different. However, strengthening the immune system is almost always an important factor in follow-up care.

The defense against renewed bacterial infections and the strengthening of the general condition is possible with a whole range of measures. This includes a healthy diet with sufficient amounts of water to drink, plenty of sleep and enough exercise. During activities and sports, however, it is important that the patient no longer has a fever.

It is not uncommon for antibiotics to be prescribed against bacterial infections, which can have side effects such as gastrointestinal problems or fungal infections. Follow-up care also means rebuilding the intestinal or vaginal flora in the event of such infections. Nicotine and alcohol weaken the immune system. It is good if the patient does without it during regeneration and aftercare.

You can do that yourself

A bacterial infection should always be clarified by a doctor first. Medical treatment can then be accelerated with various home remedies and self-help tips.

First of all, physical rest (bed rest) and a suitable diet are recommended. During an infection, the body primarily needs light and vitamin-rich food such as vegetables, fresh fruit or chicken broth. Suitable drinks are juices containing vitamin C (e.g. orange or grapefruit juice), herbal teas such as linden blossom, chamomile or fennel and mineral water.

Flatulent foods as well as alcohol and caffeine should be avoided as far as possible, as they put additional strain on the gastrointestinal tract and the immune system. To strengthen the body’s defenses, warm baths (bath temperature approx. 37 ° C) with essential oils such as lavender or rosemary as bath additives are recommended.

In general, the body should be kept warm, for example with warm clothing or blankets. In the case of a strong cough or throat pain, the herbal remedies mentioned can also be inhaled or applied to the chest and back in the form of an ointment. In addition, the room air should be kept moist with a humidifier. Finally, contact with healthy people should be avoided for the time being in order to prevent the bacterial infection from spreading further.

Bacterial Infection