What are Bloodborne Pathogens?
Bloodborne Pathogens are pathogenic microorganisms that can eventually cause disease. They are found in human blood and other bodily fluids such as synovial fluid, semen, vaginal secretions, cerebrospinal fluid and any other fluid that mixes or has contact with blood. The bloodborne pathogens are pathogenic, which means they are disease causing, and they are also microorganisms, which means that they are very small so the human eye cannot see them.
Bloodborne pathogens are viruses that deteriorate cells within the body. A virus is a submicroscopic parasitic organism that feeds on cells. Viruses are dependent on cells for their nutrients so the virus survive and reproduce. Every virus consists of either deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) or ribonucleic acid (RNA). A virus can contain a strand of one or the other, but not both. This RNA or DNA is contained within a protein shell for protection. A virus is a parasite that is dependent upon cells for metabolic and reproductive requirements. By using the cell the virus makes the host very ill by redirecting cellular activity to make more viruses.
Most Significant Bloodborne Pathogens
Two of the most significant bloodborne pathogens are HBV (Hepatitis B Virus) and HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). Some of the other bloodborne pathogens include Hepatitis C, Hepatitis D, and Syphilis. These are less significant and not as life threatening as the two listed above.
The Hepatitis B virus is a disease that affects the liver and results in swelling and loss of normal function in the liver. It is estimated that 350 million people are infected with Hepatitis B worldwide, with 50 million new cases diagnosed every year.(1) In the United States it is estimated that about 1.25 million people have chronic Hepatitis. New cases happen at a rate of about 300,000 new cases a year in the U.S.(1) When the liver swells this can cause liver cell damage, which can lead to scarring of the liver, otherwise known as Cirrhosis. This can also increase the risk of liver cancer. Approximately 90-95% of adults will recover within six months and not contact HBV again.(2) However, blood tests will always show that the person was infected with HBV and blood banks will not accept their blood. About 5-10% of adults and 25-90% of children under the age of 5 that are infected with HBV are not able to get rid of the virus after 6 months. These people are considered to be chronically infected, commonly called Hepatitis B carriers. The carrier rate of Hepatitis B varies throughout the world, being uncommon amongst westerners, but reaching as high as 20% in people from Asia and Africa. With the immigration of foreigners into new countries, Hepatitis B is now becoming established in parts of countries where it previously was not.
Many people with acute HBV have no symptoms at all, or they could be very insignificant and flu-like. Sometimes the infected person may have a loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, muscle or joint aches, mild fever, and in some cases jaundice (yellowing of the skin). Also, some of the patients may notice dark urine and light colored stools. Because Hepatitis sometimes has no symptoms it can be unknowingly transmitted through exposure to blood or other bodily fluids or through intimate contact. The incubation period of Hepatitis B is about 45 to 160 days and the average is about 120 days.
HBV is transmitted through contact with bodily fluids containing HBV. Therefore, anyone who is exposed to blood or bodily fluids of an infected person is at risk of contracting HBV. The most common way Hepatitis B is passed from one person to another is sexual contact. It can also be passed through exposure to sharp instruments contaminated with the infected blood. For example, tattooing, body-piercing, sharing of razors and toothbrushes, or human bites. In about 30-40% of cases, the method of how the viruses were contracted is unrecognized. The Hepatitis B virus is 100 more times more contagious than HIV and the virus can last outside the body for at least 7 days on a dry surface.
There is no treatment for acute Hepatitis B, but there are two approved treatments for chronic HBV. The treatments are interferon alfa-2b and lamivudine. Overall, about 35% of patients that use injections of interferon for 4 to 6 months will have a long-term response. The response to the oral lamivudine, given for at least one year, is somewhat lower.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a retrovirus that hooks up with a host cell. HIV is a retrovirus because it is a virus that enters a host cell and changes its RNA into a DNA replica that is for viruses. There are several different types of cells that HIV can attack such as T4 blood cells, B-cells, and monocytes. When the HIV attacks the cells it decreases their effectiveness in fighting disease, which yields the name Immunodeficiency which is the deterioration of the immune system. About 1 in every 250 people in the United States is infected with HIV, and about 1 out of every 100 adult males between the ages of 20 and 49 is HIV positive.(3) Throughout the world there are about 40,000 to 50,000 new cases each year.
HIV breaks down the immune system, and causes people to develop harmful infections that don’t usually infect people. These are called opportunistic infections and include a number of unusual infections.
Just as Hepatitis B, HIV is transmitted by exposure to infected blood or other bodily fluids, or sexual contact. Some of the symptoms of HIV include fatigue, weight loss, muscle or joint pain, painful or swollen glands, night sweats and fever. Within 1 year of exposure, antibodies to HIV can be detected in a blood test. Just like hepatitis B, Some people may not know they are infected with HIV for 8-10 years, but unfortunately most people who are infected will in a matter of time acquire Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
AIDS is a conglomerate of signs and symptoms that are recognized as the effects of an infection. When a person has AIDS he/she is very vulnerable to even the smallest infections, thus making them defenseless against a variety of illnesses which can develop into opportunistic infections and cancers. AIDS was first identified in 1981, and since then more than 500,000 American people have been reported as having AIDS. About 2/3 of those people had died through 1995. Approximately 50% of patients develop AIDS within 10 years of becoming HIV infected. After people acquire AIDS they usually die within 2 years of infection.
There is no vaccine for HIV, but there are some drugs that can extend their lives. Some of the treatments that are offered are very expensive and are not available to all people with HIV. Also, these treatments do not work for about 20% of people who have tried them. Some of the best ways to avoid contracting HIV is to abstain from sexual intercourse and from sharing needles if you do drugs. Do not share personal items that may be contaminated with blood.