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A communicable disease caused by bacteria. It affects millions of people around the world and can be cured by antibiotics, but increasingly the pathogenic bacteria are becoming resistant to the most widely used antibiotics.



Medicine that acts against bacterial infections. Penicillin is an example of an antibiotic.


Breaking down the large insoluble food molecules into small soluble molecules


A killer disease until it was eradicated by 1980. Infected individuals are covered in skin sores and damage to body organs can cause death.


The smallest of living organisms. Viruses are made up of a ball of protein that contains a small amount of the virus DNA. They can only reproduce after they have infected a host cell


Viral disease causing paralysis which has been eradicated from most countries in the world by a vaccination programme


A viral infection of the breathing system which attacks the lungs and can be fatal

Bacteria and antibiotics research task

Use the Infectious Diseases modules on this site and other resources to learn more about bacteria and their treatment to find the answers to the questions below:

Question 1

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What are bacteria?
What is the typical size of a bacterial cell?
How does a bacterial cell differ from an animal cell?
What are antibiotics?
What was the first antibiotic to be discovered?
How does this antibiotic work?

Question 2

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Can you think of five places where bacteria can be found living.

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Question 3

What does the bacterium streptococci looks like?

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That's not right, try again.

Question 4

A few 'rogues' have given bacteria a bad name. But most bacteria are extremely useful to us.
Link the bacteria with the way we use them.

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Lactobacillus acidophilus
  - help digestion in the large intestine
Bacillus thurnigiensis
  - breaks down organic compounds
Pseudomonas putida
  - making yoghurt
Escherichia coli
  - pest killer in crops

Question 5

Some bacteria can make us ill. Which of the following diseases are caused by bacteria? Try to find out which bacteria cause them.

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Caused by bacteria Not caused by bacteria
yellow fever
food poisoning

Question 6

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Why shouldn't a doctor prescribe antibiotics to cure someone who has a cold?

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Question 7

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What are 'superbugs'?

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Question 8

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How do bacteria become resistant to antibiotics?

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You can carry out an activity to select the most promising new antibiotic. There are two alternative tasks - the Version 2 task is more difficult than the Version 1 task!