What are Infectious Diseases of the GI Tract?
An infectious disease of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is a disorder caused by organisms like bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi. Humans have many organisms living in and on our bodies, and while they are usually harmless, some may cause disease. Different infectious diseases may be passed from person to person, transmitted by animals or insects or even by consuming contaminated food or water.
Overall, the symptoms of an infectious disease of the GI tract will differ depending on the specific organisms causing the infection. General signs may include:
- Muscle aches.
Types of Infectious Disease of the GI Tract
Infectious diseases are broken down into four main causes, including bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. Here we have compiled information regarding these different types of infections and their treatments.
Viral Infections of the GI Tract
A viral infection occurs when a harmful virus in the body reproduces and spreads. Viruses can be spread in a variety of ways, including through touch, saliva, the air, sexual contact, insects or contaminated food or water.
There are many different types of viral infections that affect the GI tract. However, some of the most common include:
This highly contagious virus causes inflammation in the stomach and intestines, diarrhea, vomiting, fever and dehydration. It is most common in infants and young children but can affect adults as well. There is no specific treatment for rotavirus, though some medications may help with symptoms. The virus usually goes away on its own after two weeks.
Norovirus is a viral infection that causes a sudden onset of severe diarrhea and vomiting. It is more common in adults than children but can affect anyone of any age. It is spread through contaminated food or water or close contact with an infected person. There is no specific treatment, as this virus usually goes away on its own after about two to three days.
Bacterial Infections of the GI Tract
Bacteria are small organisms that are usually harmless. However, some types of bacteria can cause disease in humans. Bacteria can be spread through the air, food, water or living organisms.
Some common examples of bacterial infections of the GI tract are:
This occurs when bacteria cause an infection in the gut, causing inflammation in the intestines and stomach. Individuals may contract bacterial gastroenteritis from poor hygiene, close contact with animals or by consuming contaminated food or drink. Treatment involves staying hydrated and over-the-counter medications to control symptoms.
This is a highly contagious intestinal infection caused by a family of bacteria called shigella. Children under the age of 5 are most likely to get shigella, but it can affect anyone of any age. Mild cases usually go away on their own. However, antibiotics may be able to help more severe infections.
The campylobacter infection is caused by bacteria ingested from contaminated food and water, especially undercooked poultry. Many times, this infection goes away on its own after some time. However, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics if your infection is more severe.
Fungal Infections of the GI Tract
A fungus is a type of organism that includes yeasts and molds. Sometimes, yeast can infect the gut, leading to unwanted symptoms and complications. The most common type of yeast in the GI tract is known as candida.
Candida is a type of yeast that naturally occurs in the intestines. However, an overgrowth of this yeast can lead to an infection called candidiasis. It is caused by inflammation in the GI tract which is often present in those with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It can also be caused by the use of acid reflux medication, taking too many antibiotics or having a condition that compromises your immune system. Candida can be treated with antifungal medications.
Parasitic Infections of the GI Tract
A parasitic infection of the GI tract is a condition in which a parasite infects the gut of humans. These parasites can live anywhere in the body but usually prefer the intestinal wall. Some examples of these parasitic infections include:
Tapeworms are flatworms that live in the intestines of some animals. People can contract tapeworms by eating undercooked meat from infected animals. There are many different types of tapeworms that can come from beef, pork or fish. If your doctor detects a tapeworm, the type of treatment will depend on the type of tapeworm, though they are usually treated with oral medication.
Giardia infection is caused by a microscopic parasite usually found in areas with poor sanitation or unsafe water supplies. It can spread through food or person-to-person contact. These infections usually clear up on their own within a couple of weeks, though certain medications such as Flagyl or Tindamax may be prescribed for those with severe infections.
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