Bacterial Infections

Diseases spread through tiny, one-celled organisms

Bacterial infections are diseases that spread through bacteria (tiny, one-celled organisms).

Some types of bacteria live naturally inside our bodies and help us digest food, destroy disease-causing cells and provide important nutrients. Other types of bacteria produce toxins that damage our bodies and make us sick.

Bacteria can infect all parts of the body, causing common conditions such as strep throat and complex ones like sepsis. Indiana University Health Infectious Disease physicians receive special training to diagnose and treat a full range of bacterial infections, including:

  • E. coli
  • Strep throat
  • Bacterial vaginitis
  • Bacterial endocarditis
  • Otitis externa (swimmer’s ear)
  • Bacterial meningitis
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Staph infections
  • Typhoid Fever
  • Whooping cough

Bacterial infections respond well to treatment with antibiotics. Antibiotics work by targeting bacteria cells in your body. They may also kill the good bacteria in your intestines, causing side effects like nausea and diarrhea.

If you take antibiotics too often for conditions they cannot treat, like colds or other viral infections, they can stop working against bacteria when you really need them. If you consider yourself generally healthy, you and your physician should carefully consider whether to use antibiotics for common conditions. Each time you take an antibiotic, you raise the risk that the bacteria will become resistant to the drugs (antibiotic-resistant bacteria). This means that in the future, with increased age or health risks, antibiotics may not help.

Overview

Bacteria can infect all parts of the body, causing common conditions such as strep throat and complex ones like sepsis. Indiana University Health Infectious Disease physicians receive special training to diagnose and treat a full range of bacterial infections, including:

  • E. coli
  • Strep throat
  • Bacterial vaginitis
  • Bacterial endocarditis
  • Otitis externa (swimmer’s ear)
  • Bacterial meningitis
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Staph infections
  • Typhoid Fever
  • Whooping cough

Bacterial infections respond well to treatment with antibiotics. Antibiotics work by targeting bacteria cells in your body. They may also kill the good bacteria in your intestines, causing side effects like nausea and diarrhea.

If you take antibiotics too often for conditions they cannot treat, like colds or other viral infections, they can stop working against bacteria when you really need them. If you consider yourself generally healthy, you and your physician should carefully consider whether to use antibiotics for common conditions. Each time you take an antibiotic, you raise the risk that the bacteria will become resistant to the drugs (antibiotic-resistant bacteria). This means that in the future, with increased age or health risks, antibiotics may not help.

Indiana University Health Infectious Diseases specialists offer expert diagnosis of a wide range of bacterial infections, from the common to the complicated. Your physicians work in the largest network of primary care and specialty practices in Indiana providing high quality, comprehensive care to a convenient location near you.

Your physicians will monitor your progress, help manage your symptoms and provide you with the treatments you need to get well. Your physicians will use advanced diagnostic tools and the latest treatment options to shorten your hospital stay, lessening your risk of infection.

IU Health Infectious Diseases physicians also offer a variety of immunizations against bacterial infections. Some bacterial infections, such as pneumococcus, typhoid fever and pertussis, have existing vaccines that save thousands of lives each year. For protection against bacterial infections, you and your family should stay up to date on all vaccinations.

IU Health Infectious Diseases physicians use a variety of diagnostic tools and treatments to help you overcome bacterial infections.

  • Blood cultures. For a blood culture test, physicians draw a small amount of blood. We study the blood sample under a microscope to identify the presence of bacteria or fungi. We may perform more tests to form a diagnosis and treatment plan to fit your specific infection.
  • Sputum cultures. For bacterial infections of the lungs, your physicians will take a sample of your mucus from your mouth or throat and study it to determine what type of treatment will work best for you.
  • Wound culture. If you have a wound that appears infected, your physicians will take a small sample of the tissue around the wound. They will then study the tissue for bacteria.
  • Gram stain. Your physicians will take a sample from the location of the infection and dye it. Different bacteria soak up the dye differently, making their structures more visible. Your physicians then study the bacteria to develop a treatment plan.
  • Susceptibility testing. After taking a sample of the infected area of your body, your physicians will separate the bacteria from your cells in a lab. They will then treat the bacteria with different types of antibiotics to see which drugs work best in killing the bacteria.
  • Antibody testing. Your physicians will examine small blood samples for the presence of antibodies--immune cells that fight off infection in the body. They can determine what type of bacteria you have and offer treatments targeted for your specific condition.
  • Antibiotics. In the case of serious bacterial infections, you may have to receive antibiotics intravenously (through an IV) to allow a continuous flow of antibiotics into your blood. For your convenience, we offer outpatient IV antibiotic treatments, depending on the severity of your infection.

Treatment

Indiana University Health Infectious Diseases specialists offer expert diagnosis of a wide range of bacterial infections, from the common to the complicated. Your physicians work in the largest network of primary care and specialty practices in Indiana providing high quality, comprehensive care to a convenient location near you.

Your physicians will monitor your progress, help manage your symptoms and provide you with the treatments you need to get well. Your physicians will use advanced diagnostic tools and the latest treatment options to shorten your hospital stay, lessening your risk of infection.

IU Health Infectious Diseases physicians also offer a variety of immunizations against bacterial infections. Some bacterial infections, such as pneumococcus, typhoid fever and pertussis, have existing vaccines that save thousands of lives each year. For protection against bacterial infections, you and your family should stay up to date on all vaccinations.

IU Health Infectious Diseases physicians use a variety of diagnostic tools and treatments to help you overcome bacterial infections.

  • Blood cultures. For a blood culture test, physicians draw a small amount of blood. We study the blood sample under a microscope to identify the presence of bacteria or fungi. We may perform more tests to form a diagnosis and treatment plan to fit your specific infection.
  • Sputum cultures. For bacterial infections of the lungs, your physicians will take a sample of your mucus from your mouth or throat and study it to determine what type of treatment will work best for you.
  • Wound culture. If you have a wound that appears infected, your physicians will take a small sample of the tissue around the wound. They will then study the tissue for bacteria.
  • Gram stain. Your physicians will take a sample from the location of the infection and dye it. Different bacteria soak up the dye differently, making their structures more visible. Your physicians then study the bacteria to develop a treatment plan.
  • Susceptibility testing. After taking a sample of the infected area of your body, your physicians will separate the bacteria from your cells in a lab. They will then treat the bacteria with different types of antibiotics to see which drugs work best in killing the bacteria.
  • Antibody testing. Your physicians will examine small blood samples for the presence of antibodies--immune cells that fight off infection in the body. They can determine what type of bacteria you have and offer treatments targeted for your specific condition.
  • Antibiotics. In the case of serious bacterial infections, you may have to receive antibiotics intravenously (through an IV) to allow a continuous flow of antibiotics into your blood. For your convenience, we offer outpatient IV antibiotic treatments, depending on the severity of your infection.

Patient Stories for Bacterial Infections

MedLine Plus

This website hosts a variety of links to expert articles on various bacterial infections and their treatments.

PubMed Health

This U.S. National library of medicine website is the world’s largest medical library and has information about bacterial infections, their causes, treatments and diagnostic tests.

Resources

MedLine Plus

This website hosts a variety of links to expert articles on various bacterial infections and their treatments.

PubMed Health

This U.S. National library of medicine website is the world’s largest medical library and has information about bacterial infections, their causes, treatments and diagnostic tests.