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How can your doctor know the origin of bacterial and viral infections?

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In some cases, it's difficult to determine the origin of an infection because many ailments -- including pneumonia, meningitis, and diarrhea -- can be caused by either bacteria or viruses. That said, your doctor often can pinpoint the cause by listening to your medical history and doing a physical exam.

If necessary, he or she also can order a blood or urine test, or a "culture test" of tissue to identify bacteria or viruses. Occasionally, a biopsy of affected tissue is ordered, as well.

SOURCES:

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: “Understanding Microbes in Sickness and in Health.”

MicrobeWorld.org: “Virus or Bacterium?” “Viral vs. Bacterial Reproduction.”

Merck Manual Second Home Edition: “Bacterial Infections,” “Viral Infections.”

Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar on April 23, 2019

SOURCES:

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: “Understanding Microbes in Sickness and in Health.”

MicrobeWorld.org: “Virus or Bacterium?” “Viral vs. Bacterial Reproduction.”

Merck Manual Second Home Edition: “Bacterial Infections,” “Viral Infections.”

Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar on April 23, 2019

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How are bacterial infections treated?

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