The National Academies: What You Need To Know About Infectious Disease

The National Academies

What You Need To Know About Infectious Disease

How Infection Works

Types of Microbes

The microorganisms, or microbes, that can cause disease come in different forms. Viruses and bacteria are probably the most familiar because we hear so much about them. But fungi, protozoa, and helminths are also big players in the story of infectious disease. Learn more about each of these five main categories, as well as a recently discovered one: prions.

Viruses

Viruses are unable to reproduce until they invade and commandeer living cells.

Influenza, measles, and the common cold are just some of the diseases caused by viruses. What is a virus and how is it different from other microbes?

More about viruses

Bacteria

Bacteria come in three shapes: spherical, rodlike, and curved.

Bacteria are single-celled organisms that have been around for billions of years. Discover their important characteristics.

More about bacteria

Other Microbes

Bread mold and hookworm, both infectious agents, are neither bacteria nor viruses.

Viruses and bacteria may be the most recognizable of the microbes that can cause infectious disease. But there are several other varieties. Learn about them here.

More about other microbes

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Infectious Disease Videos

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What You Need to Know About Infectious Disease

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Disease Watchlist

What do you know about infectious disease?

Which are examples of ways that pathogens (disease-causing microbes) can spread?

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    All are examples of ways that pathogens can spread. Coughing is an example of airborne droplet transmission; eating undercooked pork is an example of common vehicle transmission; a flea bite is an example of vector transmission; and breathing contaminated dust particles is an example of airborne transmission.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    All are examples of ways that pathogens can spread. Coughing is an example of airborne droplet transmission; eating undercooked pork is an example of common vehicle transmission; a flea bite is an example of vector transmission; and breathing contaminated dust particles is an example of airborne transmission.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    All are examples of ways that pathogens can spread. Coughing is an example of airborne droplet transmission; eating undercooked pork is an example of common vehicle transmission; a flea bite is an example of vector transmission; and breathing contaminated dust particles is an example of airborne transmission.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    All are examples of ways that pathogens can spread. Coughing is an example of airborne droplet transmission; eating undercooked pork is an example of common vehicle transmission; a flea bite is an example of vector transmission; and breathing contaminated dust particles is an example of airborne transmission.

  • Correct!

    All are examples of ways that pathogens can spread. Coughing is an example of airborne droplet transmission; eating undercooked pork is an example of common vehicle transmission; a flea bite is an example of vector transmission; and breathing contaminated dust particles is an example of airborne transmission.

Infectious Disease Defined

Antibodies

A special type of protein found in the blood and bodily fluid that is used by the immune system to identify and neutralize foreign and harmful substances in the body, such as bacteria and viruses.

View our full glossary

National Academies Press

Search the National Academies Press website by selecting one of these related terms.