Lung infections in humans arise when a pathogenic bacteria invades the lungs. The bacteria can then replicate and spread to other parts of the body, in serious cases. The bacterial replication results in inflammation of the alveoli in the lungs, where oxygen exchange occurs. In some cases, a lung infection will go away on its own, while more serious cases will require medical attention.
Bacterial pneumonia is a bacterial infection of the lungs caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae. This organism is a gram-positive, aerotolerant anaerobe. The organism prefers an oxygen free environment, but can live in oxygenated areas, such as the lungs. Haemophilus influenzae can cause the lung infection bronchitis. Haemophilus is a gram-negative, facultative anaerobic bacteria.
Mode of Infection
A common misunderstanding is that going out into cold air in the winter alone is enough to cause an infection in the lungs such as a cold or bacterial infection. Pediatrician Lynn Wegner states that this is simply not true. Infections spread by contact with an infected person, many times through coughing or coming into contact with sputum from the lungs. The bacteria attach to cells in the respiratory tract and lungs where they reproduce. Cells are then coughed out by the newly-infected person and spread, completing the cycle of infection.
With bacterial pneumonia, infected individuals often find extremely high temperatures, rapid breathing, drowsiness, chills, cough with sputum, and chest pain. According to the Cleveland Clinic, in extreme cases, a blue tint may occur on the lips or fingernails. Bronchitis symptoms often include a high fever, cough with sputum, shortness of breath, fatigue and slight fever/chills.
Treatment for bacterial lung infections vary based on the diagnosis. Antibiotics are a common course of treatment for bronchitis caused by bacteria. The Mayo Clinic also recommends rest, fluids, and aspirin.
Bacterial pneumonia is also treated with antibiotics, although the antibiotics may vary due to several physiological factors. While it may make sense to take a cough suppressant, doctors will often recommend not using a cough suppressant. A productive cough can actually help improve lung function.
Prevention of bacterial lung infections is often as simple as living in a clean environment and avoiding contact with people carrying illnesses. This does not always stop an infection. People with reduced immune function from chronic conditions, the elderly and newborns are at more of a risk of getting an infection.