In the know: Battling bacterial infections

Stressed Out Nurses Weekly, May 17, 2010

There are eukaryocytes (posess cell nuclei), and then there are bacteria. Bacteria are strange organisms in that they are the only life forms that don't possess a true nucleus. These creatures present themselves as cocci (round) or bacilli (elongated rod, may be straight or spiral) shapes and contain a single strand of DNA threaded through the cytoplasm. Bacteria are based on:

  • Appearance: For example whether cocci appear singly or in clusters or chains
  • Ability to tolerate air: Aerobes can and may need to live in the presence of oxygen, anaerobes do not.
  • Presence of cell walls and membranes: Those with a cell wall are Gram positive; those with a cell wall and a cell membrane are Gram negative.
  • Response to antibiotics: Termed susceptible, resistant, or intermediately resistant

An example will help put it together: The characteristics of one bacterium include Gram-positive cocci in clusters resistant to the effects of methicillin. The experienced healthcare provider would use this description to indicate methicillian-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a particularly tough bacterium responsible for infections that are difficult to vanquish.

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