Michelle Roe, Technical Healthcare specialist at water solution provider, Whitewater, discusses the impact that water quality has on hospital-acquired infections, and some of the key water treatment methods available to combat the growth and proliferation of harmful waterborne microorganisms.
Microbes are classified into distinct groups depending on their characteristics, but there are four main groups that have the most potential to cause harm to the human body, if conditions are optimal. These are bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoa.1 These groups can also be known as opportunistic pathogens, as they have the ability to integrate themselves into a host, i.e. they can invade a human body and cause an infection. Bacteria are among the most rapid organisms to replicate; they can do so every 4 to 20 minutes.2 If the bacterium is pathogenic, this can lead to a rapid deterioration in the patient over a short period; hence the importance of a rapid diagnosis.
Viruses, on the other hand, are extremely clever organisms that can manipulate the host’s immune system in many ways. For example, they can alter their genetic make-up to mimic the host’s genes. This effectively ‘tricks’ a human’s immune system not to respond, so the virus has sufficient time to replicate, and cause not only a localised infection, but one that spreads throughout the body (see Figure 1).3 Not all microorganisms (microbes), of course, cause infections; some are critical for human survival.
Different transmission pathways
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