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By: Efraim Harari

Most infectious diseases are caused by bacteria. Infections caused by bacteria can be prevented and treated through an anti-bacterial group of compounds known as antibiotics.

Antibiotics are substances that are produced by bacterial sources (micro-organisms) that fight infections by either killing the bacteria outright or by slowing down the growth or development of bacterial cells.

Antibiotics came into widespread use during the 1940s. At that time, they were called “wonder drugs,” because they cured many deadly diseases. The number of deaths caused by diseases such as meningitis, pneumonia, and tuberculosis were reduced significantly once antibiotics became available.

Today, we have many different types of antibiotics. Some antibiotics are called broad-spectrum, because they can be used for many different types of bacteria. Others are called narrow-spectrum, because they are only effective against a few specific types of bacteria. The type of antibiotic a doctor prescribes to treat an infection depends on the type of bacteria causing that infection.


Penicillin, which was the very first antibiotic drug, was discovered by accident in 1928 by Alexander Fleming.

Distinguishing Normal Body Cells
from Harmful Bacteria

You may be wondering how antibiotics can kill bacteria in your body without harming your normal body cells.

Antibiotics work by affecting things that bacterial cells have but human cells don’t. For example, human cells do not have cell walls, while many types of bacteria do. The antibiotic penicillin works by keeping bacteria from building cell walls. Bacterial cells and human cells also differ in the structure of their cell membranes and in what they use to build proteins or copy DNA. Some antibiotics dissolve the membrane of just bacterial cells, while others affect protein-building or DNA-copying machinery that is specific to bacteria.

What is a disease?

A disease is an abnormal condition that prevents a living thing (person, animal, or plant) from functioning normally. It will typically have specific signs or symptoms and affect a specific location of the body.

There are many different types of diseases. A disease can be acute (sudden, but short-lived), chronic (long-lasting), malignant (likely to grow and spread), or benign (not harmful and will not spread). Some diseases can be contagious (able to be passed on to other people).

Some diseases are classified by the body part they affect (such as liver disease), and some are classified by the bodily function they affect (such as respiratory disease, which affects the breathing).

Causes for disease include injury, infection, unhealthy habits, or a change in one’s genes. A change in a gene can sometimes prevent the gene from functioning properly, which can lead to illness.

Common - Yes, Cute – NO!

The common cold is an example of an acute disease.

Types of Disease

There are
four main types of diseases:

Pathogenic diseaseis an infectious disease that is caused by micro-organisms that enter and reproduce in the body. Measles is an example of a pathogenic disease.

Deficiency diseaseis a disease caused by a lack of one or more essential vitamins or minerals in one’s diet. Scurvy is one example of a deficiency disease.

Hereditary diseaseis a disease that is inherited genetically and passed down, from parent to child, through several generations. Muscular dystrophy is an example of a hereditary disease.

Physiological diseaseis when the normal working of a person's body is being affected because the organs are malfunctioning or
the structures of the cells have changed over time. Diabetes is one example of a physiological disease.