We are going to gain an understanding of microorganisms and what it means to be pathogenic.
This lesson will go on to discuss the importance of infection control.
Take just a minute to glance at your surroundings. Do you see them? They’re everywhere around us, and there are more of them then there are of us. Who am I referring too? Well it’s not who it’s what. I’m talking about microorganisms, or microbes.
They are the organisms that are too small to be seen with the naked eye. This means that you don’t see microorganisms unless you’re looking at your surroundings through a microscope. This is the instrument used for viewing things that are too small to be seen with the naked eye.Now that you know they’re there, you need to know what to do about them. The good thing about microorganisms is that not all of them are bad or harmful to us. The microorganisms that are not harmful are referred to as non-pathogenic. Non-pathogenic microorganisms are useful to us in many ways.
Some help us create foods we enjoy like cheese and bread, while others help us digest food. Since they are helpful, we aren’t very concerned with them.We are concerned, however with the microorganisms that are harmful and capable of causing a disease process in the body.
We refer to these as being pathogenic. Pathogenic microorganisms are the ones that can infect, or cause disease, in or on our bodies. These are the ones that we need to wage an infection control war against in order to stop their ability to infect the body.
As a nurse, you’re responsible for your part in the infection control war to protect yourself and your patients.
What Microbes Want
We established now that we want to stop pathogenic microorganisms from infecting our bodies and the bodies of patients. One key thing to doing this is knowing what it is microorganisms want and need. Our infection control strategy is to cut off what they need to survive.The first thing they need is the right temperature. Every type of microorganisms has a set temperature at which they thrive. Some prefer warmer while others prefer cooler temperatures.
The vast majority of microorganisms grow and thrive best between 25 and 40 degrees Celsius. We have to keep that in mind because the human body maintains a temperature of 37 degrees which is perfect for most pathogenic microbes.The next requirement is PH. This refers to the acidity or alkalinity. The preference for most microorganisms is close the neutral range of 7.0 to 7.
4. Our bodies are set to a ph. around 7.4.
Another requirement is moisture. The available amount of water determines if microbes can make and transport food as well as get rid of waste. They always require an ample supply of water. We are 70-80% water.Speaking of food, that brings us to our next requirement.
Microorganisms must have nutrients. This gives them what they need to make food and get energy. They are able to extract the nutrients they need from the foods we digest.The fifth thing that all microbes need is the right mixture of gases.
This is the air composition in the area where they are growing.The different gases that may be needed or restricted include oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, and hydrogen. Guess what? We have areas in our body that have all combinations of these gases.
The last thing they need is the right amount of light. There are pathogenic microbes that thrive in the dark, as well as those that thrive in the light. The surfaces of our body and even certain areas inside contain the right amount of light for them to grow.Remember that you are one of the first lines of defense of infection control as a nurse. You know what the pathogenic microbes need, so you need to stop them from getting it. The number one way to stop an infection from occurring is to always wash your hands using anti-microbial soap between patients and any time your enter or leave a medical facility.
This includes going to the restroom and leaving to eat. This takes away their nutrient supply and changes the ph.
How to Stop Their Plan
There are a number of other ways to fight the battle against pathogenic microorganisms. These are provided for you in the CDC’s list of standard precautions.
Be sure to become familiar with each precaution so you know how to stop infections from spreading. The main thing is to keep them from getting into your, or anyone else’s, body.
Types of Microorganisms
Now that you’re winning the war, let’s look at the microbes you’re fighting against:
- Bacteria are the one-celled microbes with few internal structures.
Some examples of pathogenic bacteria are Staphylococcus aureus, which causes toxic shock syndrome and cellulitis, Escherichia coli, which causes hemorrhagic colitis, and Borelli burgdorferi, which causes Lyme’s disease.
- Viruses are another type of microbe that you’ve defeated. These are molecules of DNA or RNA inside of a protein that require a host to live in. Almost all viruses are pathogenic. Some familiar viruses include human papilloma virus, which can cause genital warts and cervical cancer, Norwalk virus which can cause gastroenteritis, and herpes zoster which causes shingles.
- Fungi are another type of microbe.
These are single or multi-celled organisms that are categorized as yeasts and molds. Common fungi include Trichophyton mentagrophyrtes, which causes tinea pedis, more commonly known as athlete’s foot, and Candida albicans, which causes oral thrush
- The next defeated microbes are the protozoans. These are a group of one cellular organisms that behave like animals.
The most notorious of protozoans are the plasmodium species. There are about five or more of them that cause malaria.
We covered some very important responsibilities you’re going to have to take on as a nurse. Some basic terms that we discussed include:
- Microorganisms (also called microbes) – organisms that are too small to be seen with the naked eye.
- Microscope – instrument used for viewing things too small to be seen with the naked eye.
- Non-pathogenic – microorganisms that are not harmful
- Pathogenic – microorganisms that are harmful and capable of causing a disease process.
We then went on to discover the six requirements for microorganism growth. The six are: temperature, pH, moisture, nutrients, gases, and light.We ended the lesson with looking at the four main types of microorganisms. The four are:
- Bacteria – one-celled microbes with few internal structures
- Viruses – molecules of DNA or RNA inside of protein that require a host to live in.
- Fungi – single or multi-celled organisms that are categorized as yeasts or molds.
- Protozoans – one cellular organisms that behave like animals.