What Is A Pathogen?

Pathogens are microorganisms that enter, develop and cause illness to the body of its host. It only needs a host body to survive. Pathogens are capable of bypassing the immune system. It also uses bodily substances to exist. These microbes can spread from one host to another in various ways, depending on its type. 

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Fig1: Microscopic view of pathogens. 

Notably, pathogens can transmit through the air, bodily fluids, skin contact, etc. 

Let us start with more details about what is a pathogen for a better grasp on this topic.

Features of Pathogens

The primary aim of pathogens is to exist and multiply in its host. Their target is to

  • Search for a compatible body part to survive which is full of nutrients. 

  • Infect the host.

  • Avoid or subvert the host’s natural immune responses. 

  • Reproduce with the help of a host’s resources. 

  • Enter a new host. 

Pathogens can study a cell’s mechanism very well and evolve accordingly to exploit its host organisms. 

Different Kinds of Pathogens

Primarily there are four types of pathogens. These are

1. Viruses 

Viruses are the most common type of pathogens. It is an infectious agent that colonises inside a living organism. Taking advantage of weak immunity power, it attacks host cells. Then viruses use the substances of host cells. Also it produces more viruses. Once the replication cycle ends, they travel to new hosts. 

They mainly damage infected cells. This can even stay dormant for a while before replicating. All these traits define pathogenic viruses. It is the main cause behind viral infections that tend to recur in the host body. Only a few antiviral medicines can kill these viruses. 

2. Fungi 

Millions of fungal species live on the plant. Not all of them cause diseases. Only about 300 of them are responsible for causing illness. Fungi are everywhere, be it on the surface of skin or inside your food. They cause sickness only if they overgrow. 

Fungi have two protective layers, a membrane and a cell wall, and they cannot be destroyed easily. The intensity of fungal infection can be moderate to severe, depending on its type. 

3. Bacteria 

Another common type of illness-causing pathogen is bacteria. It is a microscopic, unicellular organism. Just like fungi, not all bacteria cause illness. There are some bacteria which are beneficial for human health. For example, lactobacillus remains in curd. 

The bacteria that cause infection are pathogenic. Usually, bacterial illness can be treated using antibiotics. 

4. Parasites 

This pathogenic organism survives in its host’s body and takes benefits of it. In return, it causes harm to its host. They are mainly of three types- protozoa, ectoparasites and helminths. It can transit through several modes, including insect bite. 

Pathogens Inflicted Diseases

Viruses: Common flu, measles, herpes, COVID-19, chickenpox, HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis A B C D, etc.  

Fungi: Ringworm, vaginal yeast infection, jock itch, etc.  

Bacteria: Tuberculosis, Gonorrhoea, Lyme disease, etc. 

Parasites: Malaria, Intestinal worms, Lice, etc. 

Now that you know about what is a pathogen, let us discuss how to prevent its invasion. 

Safety Measures

  • Getting vaccinated regularly.

  • Washing hands properly.

  • Careful storage of food items.

  • Staying away from sharing personal products.

  • If symptoms like fever, vomiting, etc. arise, stay at home.

  • Practice safe sex.

  • Beware of insect bites. Use a product like a mosquito repellent. 

Multiple Choice Questions

1. What Causes Athlete Foot Disease?

  1. Virus

  2. Bacteria

  3. Parasite

  4. Fungi

2. Which One is a Good Bacteria for Humans?

  1. Probiotics

  2. Salmonella

  3. Vibrio

  4. Helicobacter

Answers: 1-d), 2-a)

For further information on what is a pathogen and its allied topics, access our detailed study material. Now you can also download our Vedantu app for easier access to these study materials and online interactive sessions.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What do you Mean by Pathogens?

Ans. Pathogens are the organisms that cause diseases in its host body. The pathogens that make humans ill are called human pathogens. A few examples of pathogens are Listeria, Salmonella, etc. 

2. What are Viruses?

Ans. Pathogens cause infectious diseases. It includes viruses, protozoa, fungi, worms, etc. Therefore, a virus is one of the pathogens. 

3. What are the Four Main Groups of Pathogens?

Ans. The four main groups of pathogens are viruses, parasites, fungi and bacteria. Apart from these, there are other types of pathogens as well.