Bacterial Infections | Infectious Diseases

Infectious Diseases

Bacterial Infections

Bacterial infections can lead to life-threatening complications. Our specialists offer the latest treatments to get you well and limit disease spread.

Medically reviewed by Dean Blumberg, M.D. on Nov. 08, 2023.

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Expert Care for Bacterial Infections

The UC Davis Health Division of Infectious Diseases experts treat common and rare bacterial infections. We’re nationally recognized for our expertise in infection prevention and care.

Our Difference

Care for All Ages

Certain bacterial infections are highly contagious. Our adult and pediatric infectious disease specialists work together to protect everyone in your family.

Infectious Diseases Clinics

Doctors across Northern California refer their patients to our Infectious Diseases Clinic for advanced care. UC Davis Medical Center also has an on-site Acute Infections Management Service (AIMS) that provides outpatient IV antibiotics for certain types of infectious diseases.

Innovative Research

Our doctors are actively involved in infectious disease clinical research. We’re dedicated to finding new ways to prevent and treat bacterial infections and stop the spread of disease.


What Are Bacterial Infections?

Bacterial infections affect your blood, skin, lungs or other organs. There are different types of bacterial infections, each with distinct causes and symptoms. Antibiotics treat most bacterial infections.

Common Bacterial Infections

Bacterial Meningitis

Bacterial meningitis causes swelling in the tissue layers (meninges) that surround your brain and spinal cord. Vaccines prevent certain types of bacterial meningitis.

Clostridioides difficile (C. diff)

C. diff causes swelling in your large intestine, which leads to severe diarrhea. Long-term use of antibiotics can cause this infection.

E. coli

E. coli is a group of bacteria that causes different illnesses. You may have severe diarrhea, a urinary tract infection, pneumonia or another sickness.


The MR in MRSA stands for Methicillin-resistant. Methicillin is an antibiotic that treats Staphylococcus aureus (staph) infections. When you have MRSA, the bacteria that cause the infection don’t respond to certain antibiotics. You can develop infections in your bones, blood, heart or lungs.


Certain bacteria can cause distinct types of pneumonia. This infection causes your lungs to fill with fluids. Vaccines protect against some bacterial causes of pneumonia.


Salmonella bacteria are a common cause of food poisoning. You may have stomach cramps, diarrhea and fever. This illness is known as salmonella or salmonellosis.

Staph Infections

Staph infections occur when Staphylococcus aureus bacteria that naturally live in your nose and on your skin enter your body. This can lead to infections in your blood, bones, lungs, heart and other parts of your body.

Strep Throat

Group A Streptococcus (group A strep) bacteria that live in your nose and throat cause strep throat infections. This contagious illness causes fever, a painful sore throat and swollen tonsils.

Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

Bordetella pertussis bacteria cause whooping cough. This highly contagious infection causes severe coughing fits. It’s especially dangerous to infants and young children. Vaccines prevent this bacterial infection.


Causes and Risk Factors of Bacterial Infections

Bacteria are living organisms that cause bacterial infections. These germs are everywhere. Some live on or in your body and may never cause harm. But bacteria can make you sick, especially if you have certain risk factors.

Top risk factors include:


Your odds of developing a specific type of bacterial infection vary by age. Infants and young children who aren’t fully vaccinated against preventable bacterial infections are more likely to get sick. Older people are more likely to develop pneumonia and C. diff.

Health Conditions

Certain medical conditions make you more prone to bacterial infections. These conditions include HIV/AIDS, sickle cell disease and substance use disorders.

Inpatient Care

People receiving care in hospitals and group care facilities are more at risk for infections like MRSA, staph infections and C. diff.

Weakened Immune System

Autoimmune diseases, cancer treatments, surgeries and other illnesses and therapies can weaken your immune system. A weakened immune system has a harder time killing bad bacteria.

Why Treatment Matters

Many bacteria are helpful. They break down food and medicines. They also stop bad bacteria from multiplying and making you sick.

But infection-causing bacteria can quickly grow out of control. You can develop serious, potentially life-threatening complications.

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