Bacterial Infections

Bacteria are living things that have only one cell. Under a microscope, they look like balls, rods or spirals. They are so small that a line of 1,000 could fit across a pencil eraser. Most bacteria won't hurt you - less than 1 percent makes people sick. Many are helpful. Some bacteria help to digest food, destroy disease-causing cells and give the body needed vitamins. Bacteria are also used in making healthy foods like yogurt and cheese.

But infectious bacteria can make you ill. They reproduce quickly in your body. Many give off chemicals called toxins, which can damage tissue and make you sick. Examples of bacteria that cause infections include Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, and E. coli.

Antibiotics are the usual treatment. When you take antibiotics, follow the directions carefully. Each time you take antibiotics, you increase the chances that bacteria in your body will learn to resist them. Later, you could get or spread an infection that those antibiotics cannot cure.

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