Medical research

Compound in breast milk fights harmful bacteria

Researchers at National Jewish Health and the University of Iowa have identified a compound in human breast milk that fights infections by harmful bacteria while allowing beneficial bacteria to thrive. Human breast milk has ...

Diseases, Conditions, Syndromes

Your energy-efficient washing machine could be harboring pathogens

For the first time ever, investigators have identified a washing machine as a reservoir of multidrug-resistant pathogens. The pathogens, a single clone of Klebsiella oxytoca, were transmitted repeatedly to newborns in a neonatal ...

Diseases, Conditions, Syndromes

Database to support infectious disease research

A new database PathoPhenoDB facilitates the search for associations between infectious diseases, the pathogens that cause them, the resulting clinical signs and symptoms, and the drugs that can treat them. It also contains ...

Diseases, Conditions, Syndromes

Clostridium difficile infections may have a friend in fungi

The pathogen Clostridium difficile, which causes one of the most common hospital-acquired infections in the United States, may have accomplices that until now have gone largely unnoticed.

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Pathogen

A pathogen (from Greek πάθος path "suffering, passion", and γἰγνομαι (γεν-) gignomai (gen-) "I give birth to"), infectious agent, or (more commonly) germ, is a biological agent that causes disease or illness to its host. There are several substrates and pathways whereby pathogens can invade a host; the principal pathways have different episodic time frames, but soil contamination has the longest or most persistent potential for harboring a pathogen.

The body contains many natural defenses against some of the common pathogens (such as Pneumocystis) in the form of the human immune system and by some "helpful" bacteria present in the human body's normal flora. However, if the immune system or "good" bacteria is damaged in any way (such as by chemotherapy, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), or antibiotics being taken to kill other pathogens), pathogenic bacteria that were being held at bay can proliferate and cause harm to the host. Such cases are called opportunistic infection.

Some pathogens (such as the bacterium Yersinia pestis, which may have caused the Black Plague, the Variola virus, and the Maleria protozoa) have been responsible for massive numbers of casualties and have had numerous effects on afflicted groups. Of particular note in modern times is HIV, which is known to have infected several million humans globally, along with the Influenza virus. Today, while many medical advances have been made to safeguard against infection by pathogens, through the use of vaccination, antibiotics, and fungicide, pathogens continue to threaten human life. Social advances such as food safety, hygiene, and water treatment have reduced the threat from some pathogens.

Not all pathogens are negative. In entomology, pathogens are one of the "Three P's" (predators, pathogens, and parasitoids) that serve as natural or introduced biological controls to suppress arthropod pest populations.

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