Infectious disease pathophysiology

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  • Primary Pathogens cause disease as a result of their presence or activity within the normal, healthy host, and their intrinsic virulence (the severity of the disease they cause) is, in part, a necessary consequence of their need to reproduce and spread. Many of the most common primary pathogens of humans only infect humans, however many serious diseases are caused by organisms acquired from the environment or which infect non-human hosts.

One way of proving that a given disease is "infectious", is to satisfy Koch's postulates (first proposed by Robert Koch), which demands that the infectious agentbe identified only in patients and not in healthy controls, and that patients who contract the agent also develop the disease. These postulates were first used in the discovery that Mycobacteria species cause tuberculosis. Koch's postulates cannot be met ethically for many human diseases because they require experimental infection of a healthy individual with a pathogen produced as a pure culture. Often, even diseases that are quite clearly infectious do not meet the infectious criteria. For example,Treponema pallidum, the causative spirochete of syphilis, cannot be cultured in vitro - however the organism can be cultured in rabbit testes. It is less clear that a pure culture comes from an animal source serving as host than it is when derived from microbes derived from plate culture.

One of the main infectious diseases pathogenesis is due to antigens, which can be classified into:

  • Exogenous antigens: Natural invaders, such as infectious pathogens and animal venoms, are exogenous proteins that are toxic to host cells and consist of protein complexes of variable size expressing different levels of virulence. Endogenous proteins that are released from activated or destroyed cells, and those produced in an immune response, including proinflammatory cytokines and proteolytic enzymes from immune cells such as macrophage or granulocytes, could also be toxic to the host cells.


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