There are different types of pathogens, but we’re going to focus on viruses, bacteria, mold and mildew.
- Viruses are made up of a piece of genetic code, such as DNA or RNA, and are protected by a coating of protein. Once you’re infected, viruses invade host cells within your body. They then use the components of the host cell to replicate, producing more viruses. After the replication cycle is complete, these new viruses are released from the host cell. This usually damages or destroys the infected cells. Some viruses can remain dormant for a time before multiplying again. When this happens, a person appears to have recovered from the viral infection, but gets sick again. Antibiotics do not kill viruses and therefore are ineffective as a treatment for viral infections. Antiviral medications can sometimes be used, depending on the virus.
- Bacteria are microorganisms made of a single cell. They are very diverse, have a variety of shapes and features, and have the ability to live in just about any environment, including in and on your body. Not all bacteria cause infections. Those that can are called pathogenic bacteria. Your body can be more prone to bacterial infections when your immune system is compromised by a virus. The disease state caused by a virus enables normally harmless bacteria to become pathogenic. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. Some strains of bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics, making them difficult to treat. This can happen naturally, but also happens because of the overuse of antibiotics, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) Trusted Source.
- Mold is a fungus. Mold can be black, yellow or green and grows underneath the surface of anything that has gotten wet. The texture of mold can be extremely fuzzy or slimy in. Mold tends to attack your sense of smell immediately with its strong smell of rotting wood or paper. When mold eats and grows through materials, it releases Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds (MVOC) which is the source of its pungent smell. Fungi can be found just about everywhere in the environment, including indoors, outdoors, and on human skin. They cause infection when they overgrow. Fungi cells contain a nucleus and other components protected by a membrane and a thick cell wall. Their structure can make them harder to kill. Mold and black mold can have severe effects on your health and your environment. Exposure to mold spores includes allergic reactions, asthma episodes, irritations of the eye, nose, and throat, sinus congestion, and other respiratory problems. Untreated mold on materials can also cause lasting damage. For example, long exposure to black mold can shut down your organs and even incapacitate your immune system.
- Mildew is a fungus. Mildew is a white or gray substance that is powdery and even fuzzy looking, which grows on moist surfaces. Mildew has an unpleasant musty, odor like something is moist in the room. Many people describe the smell as similar to wet socks. Mildew will appear as white or gray splotches on your walls. When breathing in mildew you can have allergic-like reactions. Mildew spores can cause coughing, headache, sore throat, and respiratory problems.