The Battle Of The Pathogens Some Bad Guys Are Good Guys

Our bodies contain many microorganisms that are normal and beneficial. Others simply are unable to grow to the level where they become pathogenic because they compete with other microorganisms for nutrients required for growth.

This situation causes scientists concern when giving a broad-spectrum antibiotic to a patient when the pathogen is not known. A pathogen is a disease-causing organism. A broad-spectrum antibiotic is likely to destroy the pathogen, but it is also likely to destroy other microorganisms. This could cause an imbalance with competing microorganisms, resulting in a competitor being killed. This in turn enables the surviving microorganism to become an opportunistic pathogen. The increased growth of opportunistic pathogens is called superinfection. Microorganisms that develop resistance to the antibiotic also cause a superinfection by replacing the antibiotic-sensitive strain.

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