Microorganisms and Disease

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The effects that an infection has on the body, such as a fever (raised body temperature) or a rash are called the symptoms. Different microorganisms cause different symptoms, but they all damage the body in one way or another. The damage is done to the body's cells.

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Some microorganisms damage cells directly. For example, malaria parasites invade red blood cells and multiply inside them, eventually making the cells burst open. Malaria causes flu-like symptoms.

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Many infectious microorganisms produce poisons (toxins) that damage cells:

  • Some bacteria produce proteins that damage the material holding cells together. This helps the bacteria to invade the body more deeply e.g. Staphylococcus bacteria can cause food poisoning.
  • Other microorganisms produce toxins that poison cells, causing fever or inflammation (painful swelling). Some strains of Escherichia coli cause diarrhea by secreting toxic substances.
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