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Glossary

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z








Acquired Resistance
resistance to antimicrobial agents that develops in micro-organisms that were previously sensitive.

Acute otitis media
inflammation of the middle ear commonly caused by infection

Antibacterial spectrum
the range of bacteria that are susceptible to a particular antibiotic

Antibiotic
a substance produced by or derived from a microorganism, that selectively destroys other microorganisms or inhibits their growth

Antifungal agent
an agent that can be used to treat infections by fungi

Antimicrobial agent
any compound that at low concentrations is selectively toxic to microorganisms

Antimicrobial chemotherapy
the use of antimicrobials to prevent or treat microbial disease

Antiseptic
a non-toxic chemical that can be used to clean skin before an operation so as to prevent infection or applied to the skin to cleanse dirty wounds

Asymptomatic
not showing any signs of the disease although it is present

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Bacilli
rod-shaped bacteria

Bacterium
a single-celled microorganism that is simpler and usually smaller than protozoa

Bug
used interchangably with 'germ' to describe a microbe e.g. a bacterium, virus, fungus or protozoan

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Cocci
round bacteria

Colonisation
the ability of some microbes to live on or in a host without causing disease

Commensal
a member of the normal bacterial flora

Communicable Disease
a disease caused by a microorganism that can be passed from a person, animal or enviroment to another susceptible individual

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Disinfectant
a chemical that destroys or removes bacteria and other microorganisms. Used to cleanse surgical instruments and surfaces of equipment or furniture

DNA
deoxyribonucleic acid; the genetic material of most living organisms

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Enzyme
a protein that, in small amounts, speed up the rate of a biological reaction without itself being used in the reaction

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Flora
see normal bacterial flora

Fungus
a simple plant-like organism which lacks the green pigment chlorophyll. Some fungi caused local infections such as thrush or athlete's foot but may also cause serious infections in vulnerable people

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Gene
the basic unit of genetic material

Germ
on this website used interchangably with 'bug' to describe a microbe e.g. a bacterium, virus, fungus or protozoan

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Immunocompromised
a person who has impaired immunity due to disease (e.g. cancer) or treatment (e.g. corticosteroids or radiotherapy)

Inherent resistance
resistance to an antimicrobial agent that is due to the basic nature of the organism

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Meta-analysis
statistical analysis that combines results from several different studies to obtain an overall estimate, e.g. the effectiveness of antibacterial agents to treat acute otitis media

Microorganism
any organism that is too small to be seen by the naked eye e.g. bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa

Multi-resistance
a microorganism that is resistant to two or more unrelated antimicrobials

Mutation
a change in the genetic material of an organism, or the resultant change this causes in a characteristic of the individual caused by an alteration in the nucleic acid structure

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Normal bacterial flora
the bacteria that normally live on and in the skin, gut, mouth and upper respiratory tract of humans. Also called commensal organisms they do not normally cause disease and provide some protection from infection. When antimicrobial agents are used to treat infectious disease they can affect the normal bacterial flora and their ability to provide protection from infection

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Opportunistic pathogen
a pathogen that infects immunocompromised people but rarely infects healthy people

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Pathogen
a microorganism capable of causing disease

Plasmid
a piece of genetic material (DNA) often found in bacteria that is independent of the chromosome

Prophylaxis
using an antimicrobial agent to prevent infection e.g. giving antimicrobial agents before gut surgery in order to prevent microorganisms in the gut spreading into the abdomen

Protozoan
a single celled microorganism that is more complex and usually bigger than a bacterium and may be free living or parasitic

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Randomised controlled studies/trials
an experimental method for comparing different treatments by randomly assigning people to groups which receive different treatments and comparing outcomes

Replication
the process of making an exact copy of a molecule or organism

Resistance
the ability of a microorganism to withstand an antimicrobial agent. See also acquired resistance and inherent resistance.

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Sinusitis
Inflammation of the nasal cavities that is commonly caused by infection

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Transmission
passing infectious disease from one person to another or a plasmid from one bacterium to another

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Vaccine
a preparation that can be used to stimulate the development of immunity against one or more pathogens to prevent infections

Virulence
the ability of a pathogen to cause disease

Virus
a very small microorganism that can only survive and multiply within a living host cell

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