The Pathophysiological Process of Infection

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This article provides an overview of the pathophysiological process of infection, the potential diagnostic, the symptoms and signs of infections and the role of nurses when it comes to the management of infections. This article also provides an overview of how the pathophysiological process of infection affects the cellular level and the systematic level. It is important to understand the pathophysiological process of infection and the treatment of different diseases. The process helps patients to understand and identify the different things that happen in the process.  


Infectious diseases still remain the leading cause of death in developing and developed countries. Infections can result in mortality and morbidity, especially in those individuals who are vulnerable to illnesses. The people considered to be vulnerable to illnesses are the young, the immune-compromised, the elderly, and the disenfranchised. The pathophysiological process of infectious disease mostly reflects the relationship associated with infectious agents, infectious agents, and human hosts. In most cases, infections result from the invasion of pathogens which are microorganisms that causes diseases. Most diseases result when there is an impairment of our tissue functions.  Infectious agents in this context refer to both endogenous and exogenous agents.  Endogenous infectious agents are those agents cultured from specific anatomic sites but do not cause diseases in the hosts whereas the exogenous infectious agents are those agents normally found in or on the body. Infections mainly result when endogenous agents overcome the immunity of innate hosts to cause diseases or when exogenous agents are introduced into hosts from the environment. The host is the one that plays a very important role in the two different settings. The transmission of pathogens is done by different infectious sources. The main components of the pathophysiological process of infection are the causative agents, reservoirs, portals of exit from reservoirs, modes of transmission, portals of entries into hosts, and susceptible hosts. The strategies used in controlling infection are mostly based on breaking the chain.

1. The Presence of a Causative Agent

For any infection to spread there must be a causative agent. The different types of causative agents include viruses, bacterium, fungus, rickettsia, prions, parasites, and helminths (Murata-Kamiya, 2011, p. 798). Some of the characteristics of the causative agents include pathogenicity, infectious dose, virulence, antigenic variations, ability to resist antimicrobial agents, and the capacity required to produce toxins pathogenicity basically refers to the ability of the causative agent to cause diseases. Virulence is basically the ability of the causative agent to enter and also move through tissues or “the capacity of a pathogen to cause harm to the host,” (Talip, 2017, p. 91 Chapter 1).

2. Direct Contact with the Environment

Pathogenic mechanisms are able to extend from different levels of populations to levels of molecular and cellular processes. A good example of a level of population is the person-to-person transmission whereas a good example of a molecular and cellular process is the genetic susceptibility. The environment generally includes different reservoirs or zoonotic hosts and vectors like insects which transmit infectious agents. Thus, “the expression of pathogens virulence is regulated and coordinated by several environmental and nutritional factors,” (Talip, 2017, pp. 91, Chapter 1). A good example of a reservoir in this context is an animal which amplifies and harbors infectious agents. Some types of infections may end up being asymptomatic and the bacteria present may multiply quickly to high levels (Murata-Kamiya, 2011, p. 800). If a tick larva infests a rat, the rat becomes secondarily infected and the infections persist when the tick manages to molt into a nymph. If infected nymphs decide to feed on humans, then the bacteria are transmitted into the host’s bloodstream through infected saliva, therefore, causing a disease.

The spread of a disease like tuberculosis acts as the best example when it comes to studying the pathophysiological process of infection at the population level. Tuberculosis is a disease that spreads through social interaction of infectious human hosts. Most cases of tuberculosis outbreak occur in settings like homeless shelters, nursing homes, and prisons. When analyzed or assessed at the individual level, tuberculosis is a disease that results from the inhalation of airborne tubercle bacilli respiratory droplets. The bacilli are able to activate the T cells at the cellular level. The main function of the bacilli is to contain the infection. People with impaired T-cell responses are the ones who risk developing active tuberculosis. The reservoir acts as the environment in which infectious agents multiply and live. The portals of exit from reservoirs are paths used by infectious agents to leave reservoirs (Talip, 2017, pp. 96, Chapter 1). Some of the best examples of portals of exit from reservoirs are respiratory tracts, GI tract, skin, from tissues or bloodstream by insect bites, and genitourinary tract.

Mode of Transmission

There are four routes of transmission when it comes to the pathophysiological process of infection. These routes of transmission are, “contacted transmission, common vehicle route, airborne transmission, and vector-borne transmission,” (Sabina, 2011, p. 2). Under contact transmission, we have direct contact, indirect contact, and droplet contact. Under common vehicle route which is through contaminated objects; we have water, blood, food, and drugs. Under airborne transmission, we have dust particles which contain infectious agents, and droplet nuclei suspended in the air. Under vector-borne transmission, we have biological or mechanical spread from vectors (Sabina, 2011, p. 2).

Signs and Symptoms of the Pathophysiological Process of Infection

The symptoms and signs of infections strongly depend on the disease. Some signs tend to affect a person’s body leading to loss of appetite, fatigue, fevers, and weight loss. When people develop anorexia or poor appetite, they start to eat less food than they usually do or fail to feel hungry. Most cases of anorexia are associated with disorders like end-stage cardiac, AIDS, liver, and renal disease: tuberculosis, cancer, and other depressive disorders. Loss of appetite mainly occurs as part of a cluster of motivational and behavioral symptoms or as a distinct symptom. Fatigue is a disorder or symptom caused by infectious diseases which have immunologic manifestations. Fever as a symptom of sign of pathophysiological process of infection and at times associated with inflammation. Weight loss is also one of the most common symptoms of the pathophysiological process of infection. Causes of weight loss include cancer, gastroenteritis, depression, hyperthyroidism, viral infections, and bowel diseases. Some infectious diseases can be asymptomatic in a given host. Some infections do not lead to illnesses in hosts. Viral and bacterial infections cause the same kind of symptoms (Perry, 2012, p. 178).

Four Potential Diagnostic for the Pathophysiological Process of Infection

The process associated with the diagnosis of infectious diseases may involve the identification of the infectious agents directly or indirectly. The diagnosis of minor infectious diseases like cutaneous abscesses, warts, diarrheal diseases, and respiratory system infections is through their clinical presentation (Procop, 2010, p. 16). In most cases, the treatment of these infectious diseases happens without the knowledge of their specific causative agents. Four potential diagnostics for the pathophysiological process of infection includes symptomatic diagnostics, microscopy diagnostics, biochemical tests, and metagenomic sequencing. In symptomatic diagnostics, diagnosis is based on the various presenting symptoms in individuals with infectious diseases. In symptomatic diagnosis: parental concern, body temperatures above forty degrees Celsius, and clinical instinct act as important indicators (Procop, 2010, p. 16).

Microscopy diagnostic is a tool used in the diagnosis of infectious diseases (Potter, 2013). In this type of diagnostic, the process of diagnosis greatly depends on microscopic examination. The process of microscopy may be done with the help of simple instruments like compound light microscopes, or complex instruments like electron microscopes. Microscopy helps to diagnose a disease and classify bacteria. Biochemical tests help in the identification of various infectious agents. Some of the infectious agents detected with the help of biochemical tests include enzymatic or metabolic products which have similar characteristics as the infectious agents. The presence of fermentation products helps in bacterial identification. Metagenomic sequencing basically involves the diagnosis of infections through the amplification of different genetic materials. Metagenomic sequencing is very helpful in cases where patients are immune-compromised (Procop, 2010, p. 17).

Nursing Management of the Pathophysiological Process of Infection

Nurses play an important role when it comes to caring for patients with infections or undergoing the pathophysiological process of infection. Nurses can help to manage infections by providing vital information and support to patients concerning the disease or infection. They can also follow up patients that require care including immunizations, blood tests, and antibiotics (Penzer, 2003, p. 29). Nurses may also educate patients on how to follow their diagnosis and also support affected patients and their families to recognize the signs and symptoms of different diseases and also help them to cope with the infections. Nurses also help to ensure that patients are in hygienic environment and also sterilize and handle medical equipment to prevent the transmission or spread of infections.    

  In conclusion, it is very important for people to understand the pathophysiological processes of infection at the level of the individual, population, the gene, and the cell. The ability to identify the causes of infection is very challenging yet important. The position nurses have in multidisciplinary teams allows them to provide care to patients who suffer from different infections. Nurses are able to assess the needs of the patients and coordinate the input of different healthcare professionals.    


Murata-Kamiya, N. (2011). Pathophysiological functions of the CagA oncoprotrein during infection by Helicobacter pylori. Microbes and Infection, 13(10), 799-807.

Penzer, R. (2003). Managing psoriasis: how nurses can help. Primary Health Care, 13(9), 27-31.

Perry, M. (2012). How the Signs and Symptoms of common infections vary with age. Practice Nursing, 23(4), 176-182.

Potter, P. P. (2013). Canadian fundamentals of nursing 5th edition; . Mosby, Canada: Elsevier.

Procop, G. W. (2010). Molecular Diagnostics for Invasive Fungal Infections. The Journal of Molecular Diagnostics, 12(1), 17-19.

Sabina, Y. (2011). Yersinia enterocolitica: Mode of Transmission, MolecularInsights of Virulence, and Pathogenesis of Infection. Journal of Paythogens, 1-10.

Talip, M. (2017). Pathogenesis of bacterial infection. Research Gate.

October 13, 2023



Illness Medicine

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Infectious Disease

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