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Infection

Infection is the colonization of a host organism by parasite species. Infecting parasites seek to use the host's resources to reproduce, often resulting in disease. Colloquially, infections are usually considered to be caused by microscopic organisms or microparasites like viruses, prions, bacteria (such as Toenail Fungus Infection), and viroids, though larger organisms like macroparasites and fungi can also infect.

Hosts normally fight infections themselves via their immune system. Mammalian hosts react to infections with an innate response, often involving inflammation, followed by an adaptive response. Pharmaceuticals can also help fight infections.

The branch of medicine that focuses on infections and pathogens is infectious disease medicine.

Signs and symptoms of infection

Disease

Disease can arise if the host's protective immune mechanisms are compromised and the organism inflicts damage on the host. Microrganisms can cause tissue damage by releasing a variety of toxins or destructive enzymes. Not all infectious agents cause disease in all hosts. On the other hand, some infectious agents are highly virulent.

Persistent infections occur because the body is unable to clear the organism after the initial infection. Persistent infection are characterized by the continual presence of the infectious organism often as latent infection with occasional recurrent relapses of active infection. There are some viruses that can maintain a persistent infection by infecting different cells of the body. Some viruses once acquired never leave the body.

Transmission

In order for infecting organisms to survive and repeat the cycle of infection in other hosts, they (or their progeny) must leave an existing reservoir and cause infection elsewhere. Transmission of infections can take place via many potential routes. Infectious organisms may be transmitted either by direct or indirect contact. Direct contact occurs when an individual comes into contact with the reservoir. This may mean touching infected bodily fluids or drinking contaminated water or being bitten by the deer tick. Direct contact infections can also result from inhalation of infectious organisms found in aerosol particles emitted by sneezing or coughing. Another common means of direct contact transmission involves sexual activity.

Indirect contact occurs when the organism is able to withstand the harsh environment outside the host for long periods of time and still remain infective when specific opportunity arises. Inanimate objects that are frequently contaminated include toys, furniture, door knobs, tissue wipes or personal care products from an infected individual. Consuming food products and fluid which have been contaminated by contact with an infecting organism is another case of disease transmission by indirect contact.

Common method of transmission in under developed countries is fecal-oral transmission. In such cases, sewage water is used to wash food or is consumed.

All the above modes are examples of horizontal transmission because the infecting organism is transmitted from person to person in the same generation. There are also a variety of infections transmitted vertically - that is from mother to child during the birthing process or fetal development.