Bacteria are microscopic singel-celled organisms without a nucleus that are found in almost every environment. They reproduce rapidly by cell decision. They are primarily differentiated on the basis of their shape (spherical, rod or spiral shaped) but are now also classified by their genetics. Of the countless species of bacteria, it is presumes that only a fraction are known and have been researched.
The great majority of all bacteria species are harmless to humans and we even live in symbiosis with some species:
We need intestinal bacteria for our digestions and we also have many harmless bacteria living on our skin and mucous membranes that protect us against invasion by pathogenic species.
Only a few bacteria species cause diseases in the human body when they enter the body and start to replicate. This opportunity presents itself particularly in immunocompromised people and as a result of major medical procedures. What is critical for preventing a bacterial infection is first preventing contamination. This means that stringent hygiene measures on hospital wards and also in the operating room that comply with the sterilisation and disinfection guidelines are of major importance.
Bacterial infections are primarily treated with antibiotics but sometimes the focus of the inflammation also has to be removed surgically. Some bacteria have developed immunity to certain antibiotics (resistance) over time. The spread of antibiotic resistance can be attributed to a special feature of bacteria:
Most of their genetic material is present as a large chromosome but they also have short, ring-shapes genetic structures known as plasmides. A special characteristic of these plasmids is that thay can be exchanged among completely different species.
Antibiotic resistance genes are located primarily on plasmids and can therefore spread rapidly.