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

Explore Other Topics

Infectious Disease Videos

Video thumbnail

7:20

What You Need to Know About Infectious Disease

View YouTube Channel

What do you know about infectious disease?

Which of the following is an effective way to protect yourself against infectious disease?

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    All of the above can help prevent infectious disease. Other behaviors, such as exercising caution around wild and unfamiliar domestic animals, avoiding insect bites, practicing safe sex, and being vigilant about disease threats while traveling abroad, can also reduce the risk of infection.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    All of the above can help prevent infectious disease. Other behaviors, such as exercising caution around wild and unfamiliar domestic animals, avoiding insect bites, practicing safe sex, and being vigilant about disease threats while traveling abroad, can also reduce the risk of infection.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    All of the above can help prevent infectious disease. Other behaviors, such as exercising caution around wild and unfamiliar domestic animals, avoiding insect bites, practicing safe sex, and being vigilant about disease threats while traveling abroad, can also reduce the risk of infection.

  • Correct!

    All of the above can help prevent infectious disease. Other behaviors, such as exercising caution around wild and unfamiliar domestic animals, avoiding insect bites, practicing safe sex, and being vigilant about disease threats while traveling abroad, can also reduce the risk of infection.

Infectious Disease Defined

Lipid

A broad group of molecules including fats and waxes that are insoluble in water.

View our full glossary

National Academies Press

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