Submitted to: ASM News
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/16/2002
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: Physicians, veterinarians, dentists, and researchers who study the causes and cures of infectious diseases in animals and humans are realizing that many diseases, when closely examined, contain multiple pathogenic players. These are serious diseases, and the responsible microorganisms can be difficult to diagnose and treat. This is a continuation of observations and hypotheses made over 20 years earlier by Harry Smith, Medical School, University of Birmingham, UK; William Costerton, Montana State University; and others. These infections have since been called complex infections, complicated infections, dual infections, mixed infections, secondary infections, co-infections, synergistic infections, concurrent infections, or polymicrobial infections. Specifically, Dr. David Soll, University of Iowa, and others define polymicrobial infections "as those that can occur with organisms from different kingdoms, from different genuses within a kingdom, from different species within a genus, from different strains within a species, and finally from different substrains within a strain." In this article, we present the concept that polymicrobial diseases is an integrated area of study that looks at the complex interactions among etiologic agents, the collective mechanisms of their pathogenicity, the synergistic clinical symptoms and pathology, and the resulting host response to infection. To support this concept, we will first present a list of diseases that previously were reported to involve more than one infectious agent in human and animals. These diseases are the focus of a book by ASM Press called Polymicrobial Diseases. We will then present categories of polymicrobial disease based on the nature of the causative agent. Finally, we have anticipated the future areas of polymicrobial disease research.