Pathogenic Bacteria - List of Pathogenic Bacteria By Clinical Characteristics

List of Pathogenic Bacteria By Clinical Characteristics

This is a rather clinical description of the species presented in the previous section, containing the main examples of transmission, diseases, treatment, prevention and laboratory diagnosis, which all can differ substantially among the species of the same genus.

Species of human pathogenic bacteria
Species Transmission Diseases Treatment Prevention laboratory diagnosis
Bacillus anthracis
  • Contact with sheep, goats and horses
  • Inhalation or skin penetration through abrasions of spore-contaminated dust
  • Cutaneous anthrax
  • Pulmonary anthrax
  • Gastrointestinal anthrax
In early infection:
  • Penicillin
  • Doxycycline
  • Ciprofloxacin
  • Anthrax vaccine
  • autoclaving of instruments
  • Large, grayish, nonhemolytic colonies with irregular borders on blood agar
  • Direct immunofluorescence
Bordetella pertussis
  • Contact with respiratory droplets expelled by infected human hosts.
  • Whooping cough


  • Secondary bacterial pneumonia
Macrolide antibiotics
  • Azithromycin
  • Erythromycin
  • Clarithromycin
  • Pertussis vaccine, DPT vaccine
  • Direct immunofluorescence
  • PCR amplification
Borrelia burgdorferi Ixodes ticks
reservoir in deer, mice and other rodents
  • Lyme disease
  • Early stages:
    • cephalosporins
    • amoxicillin
    • doxycycline
  • If arthritic symptoms have appeared:
    • Longer courses of antibiotics
  • Lyme vaccine
  • wearing clothing that limits skin exposure to ticks
  • insect repellent
  • Microscopy using Giemsa or Wright stain
  • PCR
  • serology (low precision rate)
  • Brucella abortus
  • Brucella canis
  • Brucella melitensis
  • Brucella suis
  • Direct contact with infected animal
  • Oral, by ingestion of unpasteurized milk or milk products
  • Brucellosis
Combination therapy of:
  • doxycycline
  • streptomycin or gentamicin
  • Culture (difficult and time consuming)
  • Agglutination serology
Campylobacter jejuni
  • Fecal/oral from animals (mammals and fowl)
  • Contaminated meat (especially poultry)
  • Contaminated water
  • Acute enteritis
  • Symptomatically by fluid and electrolyte replacement
  • Ciprofloxacin in severe cases
No available vaccine
  • Good hygiene
  • Avoiding contaminated water
  • Pasteurizing milk and milk products
  • Cooking meat (especially poultry)
  • Finding campylobacter in feces
Chlamydia pneumoniae Community-acquired respiratory infection
  • Doxycycline
  • Erythromycin
None None for routine use
Chlamydia trachomatis
  • Sexual (NGU, LGV)
  • Direct or contaminated surfaces and flies (trachoma)
  • Passage through birth canal (ICN)
  • Nongonococcal urethritis (NGU)
  • Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV)
  • Trachoma
  • Inclusion conjunctivitis of the newborn (ICN)
  • Azithromycin
  • Erythromycin
  • Tetracyclines
    • Doxycycline
No vaccine
  • Erythromycin or silver nitrate in newborn's eyes
  • Safe sex
  • Cellular cytoplasmic inclusions by immunofluorescence
  • DNA hybridization
  • ELISA for lipopolysaccharides
Chlamydophila psittaci Inhalation of dust with secretions or feces from birds (e.g. parrots) Psittacosis
  • Tetracycline
  • Doxycycline
  • Erythromycin (less efficient)
  • Rise in antibody titre
    • Complement fixation
    • indirect immunofluorescence
Clostridium botulinum Spores from soil and aquatic sediments contaminating vegetables, meat and fish
  • Botulism
  • Antitoxin (horse antiserum)
  • Proper food preservation techniques
  • Mouse inoculation detects toxin from food, intestinal contents or serum
  • Culture in standard aerobic culture
Clostridium difficile
  • Spores both indoors and outdoors
  • Human flora, overgrowing when other flora is depleted
  • Pseudomembranous colitis
  • Discontinuing predisposing antibiotic
  • Fluid and electrolyte replacement
  • Vancomycin or metronidazole if severe
  • ELISA for Toxin ELISA for toxin A or B
  • Endoscopy for pseudomembrane
Clostridium perfringens
  • Spores in soil
  • Human flora in vagina and GI tract
  • Gas gangrene
  • Acute food poisoning
  • Anaerobic cellulitis
Gas gangrene:
  • Debridement or amputation
  • Hyperbaric medicine
  • High doses of penicillin G or doxycycline

Food poisoning:

  • Self-limiting; Supportive care is sufficient
Appropriate food handling
  • Microscopically
  • Blood agar culture, forming double-zone β-hemolysis
  • Sugar fermentation
  • Organic acid production
Clostridium tetani
  • Spores in soil infecting puncture wounds, severe burns or surgery
  • Tetanus
  • Tetanus immune globulin
  • Horse antitoxin, alternatively
  • Sedatives
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Mechanical ventilation
  • DPT vaccine
Corynebacterium diphtheriae
  • Respiratory droplets
  • Part of human flora
  • Diphtheria
  • Horse serum antitoxin
  • Erythromycin
  • Penicillin
  • DPT vaccine
(no rapid)
  • Culture on Tinsdale agar, followed by immunologic precipitin reaction
Enterococcus faecalis and Enterococcus faecium
  • Part of human flora, opportunistic or entering through GI tract or urinary system wounds
  • Nosocomial infections
  • Penicillin and an aminoglycoside
  • Vancomycin
  • Quinupristin and dalfopristin
No vaccine
  • Hand washing and other nosocomial prevention
  • Culture in 6.5% NaCl
  • Can hydrolyze esculin in presence of bile
Escherichia coli (generally)
  • Part of gut flora, spreading extraintestinally or proliferating in the GI tract
  • Urinary tract infections (UTI)
  • Diarrhea
  • Meningitis in infants

(resistance-tests are required first)

  • Co-trimoxazole
  • Fluoroquinolone, e.g. ciprofloxacin


  • Cephalosporin (e.g. cefotaxime) and gentamicin combination


  • Antibiotics above shorten duration
  • Electrolyte and fluid replacement
(no vaccine or preventive drug)
  • Food and water preparation
    • Cooking ground beef and pasteurizing milk against O157:H7
  • Hand washing and disinfection
  • Culture on MacConkey agar and study carbohydrate fermentation patterns:
    • Lactose fermentation (most E. coli strains)
    • Gas production in glucose fermentation
    • Mannitol fermentation
Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC)
  • Fecal-oral through food and water
  • Direct physical contact
  • Traveller's diarrhea
Enteropathogenic E. coli
  • Vertical, in utero or at birth
  • Diarrhea in infants
E. coli O157:H7
  • Reservoir in cattle
  • Hemorrhagic colitis
  • Hemolytic-uremic syndrome
Francisella tularensis
  • vector-borne by arthropods
  • Infected wild or domestic animals, birds or house pets
  • Tularemia
  • Streptomycin
  • Gentamicin
  • Avoiding insect vectors
  • Precautions when handling wild animals or animal products
(rarely cultured)
  • Serology
Haemophilus influenzae
  • Bacterial meningitis
  • Upper respiratory tract infections
  • Pneumonia, bronchitis

(resistance-tests are required first)

  • Third generation cephalosporin, e.g. cefotaxime or ceftriaxone
  • Ampicillin and sulbactam combination
  • Hib vaccine to infants
  • Rifampin prophylactically
  • Culture on chocolate agar with hemin (factor X) and NAD+ (factor V)
  • Quellung reaction
  • Immunofluorescence staining of capsule
  • Detection of capsular antigen in CSF or other body fluids
Helicobacter pylori
  • Colonizing stomach
  • Unclear person-to-person transmission
  • Peptic ulcer
  • Risk factor for gastric carcinoma and gastric B-cell lymphoma
  • Tetracycline, metronidazole and bismuth salt combination
(No vaccine or preventive drug)
  • Microscopically
    • Corkscrew movement
  • Urease-positivity by radioactively labeled urea
  • Serology by ELISA
Legionella pneumophila
  • Droplet contact, from e.g. cooling towers, humidifiers, air conditioners and water distribution systems
  • Legionnaire's Disease
  • Pontiac fever
  • Macrolides, e.g. erythromycin or azithromycin
  • Fluoroquinolones
(no vaccine or preventive drug)

Heating water

  • Culture from respiratory secretions on buffered charcoal yeast extract enriched with L-cysteine, iron and α-ketoglutarate
  • Serology, including direct immunofluorescence and radioimmunoassay for antigen in urine
  • Hybridization to ribosomal RNA using DNA probe
Leptospira interrogans
  • Food and water contaminated by e.g. urine from wild or domestic animals. Leptospira survives for weeks in stagnant water.
  • Leptospirosis
  • Penicillin G
  • Tetracycline, e.g. doxycycline
(no vaccine)
  • Doxycycline

Prevention of exposure

  • Rodent control
  • Dark-field microscopy on fresh blood smear (but doesn't stain well)
  • Serologic agglutionation tests
Listeria monocytogenes
  • Dairy products, ground meats, poultry
  • Vertical to newborn or fetus
  • Listeriosis
  • Ampicillin
  • Co-trimoxazole
(no vaccine)
  • Proper food preparation and handling
Isolation from e.g. blood and CSF
  • Beta-hemolysis and catalase production on blood agar
  • Microscopy for morphology and motility
Mycobacterium leprae
  • Prolonged human-human contact, e.g. through exudates from skin lesions to abrasion of other person
  • Leprosy (Hansen's disease)
Tuberculoid form:
  • Dapsone and rifampin

Lepromatous form:

  • Clofazimine
  • BCG vaccine shows some effects
Tuberculoid form:
Hard to isolate (diagnosis on clinical findings and histology of biopsies)

Lepromatous form:

  • Acid-fast staining from e.g. skin scrapings
Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • Droplet contact
  • Tuberculosis

(difficult, see Tuberculosis treatment for more details)

Standard "short" course:

  • First 2 months, combination:
    • Isoniazid
    • Rifampicin
    • Pyrazinamide
    • Ethambutol
  • Further 4 months, combination:
    • Isoniazid
    • Rifampicin
  • BCG vaccine
  • Isoniazid
  • Ziehl-Neelsen stain showing acid-fast bacteria
  • Hybridization probes for DNA, succeeded by PCR
  • Culture on Lowenstein-Jensen agar
Mycoplasma pneumoniae
  • Human flora
  • Droplet contact
  • Mycoplasma pneumonia
  • Doxycycline and erythromycin
(difficult to culture)
  • Serologic tests, e.g. complement fixation test
  • DNA probes on sputum specimens
Neisseria gonorrhoeae
  • Sexually transmitted
  • vertical in birth
  • Gonorrhea
  • Ophthalmia neonatorum
  • Septic arthritis
Uncomplicated gonorrhea:
  • Ceftriaxone
  • Tetracycline, e.g. doxycycline if also chlamydia is suspected
  • Spectinomycin for resistance or patient allergy to cephalosporin

Ophthalmia neonatorum:

  • Tetracycline or erythromycin into eyes
(No vaccine)
  • Safe sex
  • Tetracycline or erythromycin into eyes of newborn at risk
  • Gram-negative diplococci in neutrophils from urethral exudates
  • Oxidase test on culture on Thayer-Martin agar under increased oxygen tension
  • Fermentation of glucose but not maltose
Neisseria meningitidis
  • Respiratory droplets
  • Meningococcal disease including meningitis
  • Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome
  • Penicillin G
  • Cefotaxime
  • Ceftriaxone
  • NmVac4-A/C/Y/W-135 vaccine
  • Rifampin
  • Microscopy showing gram-negative diplococci, often with PMNs
  • Culture on chocolate agar, giving positive oxidase test and fermentation of glucose and maltose in 5% CO2 in air
Pseudomonas aeruginosa Infects damaged tissues or people with reduced immunity.
  • Pseudomonas infection

Localized to eye, ear, skin, urinary, respiratory or gastrointestinal tract or CNS, or systemic with bacteremia, secondary pneumonia bone and joint infections, endocarditis, skin, soft tissue or CNS infections.

  • Aminoglycoside and anti-pseudomonal β-lactam
(no vaccine)
  • Topical silver sulfadiazine for burn wounds
  • Colourless colonies on MacConkey agar.
  • Production of pyocyanine and fluorescein
  • Positive oxidase test. No lactose fermentation.
Rickettsia rickettsii
  • Bite of infected wood or dog tick
  • Rocky mountain spotted fever
  • Doxycycline
  • Chloramphenicol
(no preventive drug or approved vaccine)
  • Vector control, such as clothing
  • Prompt removal of attached ticks
  • Serology
  • Immunofluorescence against Rickettsia antigens
Salmonella typhi Human-human
  • Fecal-oral through food or water
  • Typhoid fever type salmonellosis (dysentery, colitis)
  • Ceftriaxone
  • Fluoroquinolones, e.g. ciprofloxacin
  • Ty21a and ViCPS vaccines
  • Hygiene and food preparation
  • Isolation from blood, feces, bone marrow, urine or rose spots on skin
  • Colorless, non-lactose fermenting colonies on MacConkey agar
  • Serology for antibodies against O antigen
Salmonella typhimurium
  • Fecal-oral
  • Food contaminated by fowl (e.g. eggs), pets and other animals
  • Salmonellosis with gastroenteritis and enterocolitis
  • Fluid and electrolyte replacement for severe diarrhea
  • Antibiotics (in immunocompromised to prevent systemic spread)
(No vaccine or preventive drug)
  • Proper sewage disposal
  • Food preparation
  • Good personal hygiene
  • Colourless colonies on MacConkey agar
Shigella sonnei
  • Fecal-oral
  • Flies
  • Contaminated food or water
  • Bacillary dysentery/Shigellosis
  • Ciprofloxacin or azithromycin
  • Protection of water and food supplies
  • Vaccines are in trial stage
  • Culture on Hektoen agar or other media for intestinal pathogens
Staphylococcus aureus
  • Human flora on mucosae in e.g. anterior nares and vagina, entering through wound
Coagulase-positive staphylococcal infections:
  • Localized skin infections
  • Diffuse skin infection (Impetigo)
  • Deep, localized infections
  • Acute infective endocarditis
  • Septicemia
  • Necrotizing pneumonia
  • Toxinoses
    • Toxic shock syndrome
    • Staphylococcal food poisoning
  • Incision and drainage of localized lesions
  • Nafcillin and oxacillin
  • Vancomycin for Methicillin-resistant (MRSA)
(no vaccine or preventive drug)
  • Barrier precautions, washing hands and fomite disinfection in hospitals
  • Microscopy showing strongly positive Gram stained cells in grape-like clusters
  • Positive Catalase test and coagulase test
  • Culture on enriched media producing deep yellow, hemolytic colonies
Staphylococcus epidermidis Human flora in skin and anterior nares
  • Infections of implanted prostheses, e.g. heart valves and catheters
  • Vancomycin
  • Microscopy showing strongly positive Gram stained cells in grape-like clusters
  • Positive Catalase test but negative coagulase test
  • Novobiocin-sensitivity (S. epidermidis)
  • Novobiocin-resistance (S. saprophyticus)
  • Culture on enriched media producing white, nonhemolytic colonies
Staphylococcus saprophyticus Part of normal vaginal flora
  • Cystitis in women
  • Penicillin G
Streptococcus agalactiae Human flora in vagina or urethral mucous membranes, rectum
  • Vertical transmission by birth
  • Sexual
  • Meningitis and septicemia in neonates
  • Endometritis in postpartum women
  • Opportunistic infections with septicemia and pneumonia
  • Penicillin G
  • Ampicillin
  • Aminoglycoside in case of lethal infection
  • Culture showing large colonies with β-hemolysis
  • Negative catalase test
  • Hydrolyzes sodium hippurate
Streptococcus pneumoniae
  • Respiratory droplets
  • Often human flora in nasopharynx (spreading in immunocompromised)
  • Acute bacterial pneumonia & meningitis in adults
  • Otitis media and sinusitis in children
  • Penicillin G
  • Vancomycin for resistant strains
  • 23-serotype vaccine for adults (PPV)
  • Heptavalent conjugated vaccine for children (PCV)
  • Microscopy showing gram-positive, encapsulated lancet-shaped diplococci
  • α-hemolysis on blood agar, bile-soluble, optochin-sensitive
  • Positive Quellung reaction
Streptococcus pyogenes
  • Respiratory droplets
  • Direct physical contact with impetigo lesions
  • Streptococcal pharyngitis
  • Scarlet fever
  • Rheumatic fever
  • Impetigo and erysipelas
  • Puerperal fever
  • Necrotizing fasciitis
  • Penicillin G
  • Macrolide, e.g. clarithromycin or azithromycin in penicillin allergy
  • Drainage and debridement for Necrotizing fasciitis
No vaccine
  • Rapid antibiotic treatment helps prevent rheumatic fever
  • Culture on sheep blood agar forming small, opalescent surrounded by large zone of β-hemolysis
  • Serology for ASO
  • Very bacitracin-sensitive
Treponema pallidum
  • Sexual
  • Syphilis
  • Congenital syphilis
  • Penicillin G
  • Erythromycin or tetracycline if penicillin allergy
No preventive drug or vaccine
  • Safe sex
  • Antibiotics to pregnant women at risk of transmitting congenital syphilis
Cannot be cultured or viewed in gram-stained smear
  • Dark field microscopy
  • Serology, including nontreponemal (VDRL, RPR) and treponemal tests (FTA-ABS, TPI, TPHA)
Vibrio cholerae
  • Contaminated water and food, especially raw seafood
  • Cholera
  • Fluid and electrolyte replacement
  • e.g. doxycycline to shorten duration
  • Preventing fecal contamination of water supplies and food
  • Adequate food preparation
  • Culture on blood or MacConkey agar, enhanced by TCBS
  • Positive oxidase test
Yersinia pestis
  • Fleas from animals
  • Ingestion of animal tissues
  • Respiratory droplets
  • Bubonic plague
  • Pneumonic plague
  • Streptomycin primarily
  • Gentamicin
  • Tetracyclin
  • Supportive therapy for shock
  • Formalin-killed plague vaccine
  • Minimize exposure to rodents and fleas
  • Gram-negative smear
  • If pneumonic, culture from aspirate on MacConkey or blood agar

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