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What Is Bacterial Bronchitis?



Bacterial bronchitis is an inflammation of the passageways caused by bacteria rather than a virus.

More Info: Bronchitis is a combination of “bronchi” which is the air passageways of the lungs and the suffix “itis” which simply means inflammation. Environmental pollutants, viruses, and bacteria can cause bronchitis. Bacterial bronchitis has been diagnosed medically to be caused by a bacterium rather than by some other means.

Acute or Chronic

Bronchitis is characterized as acute or chronic. Acute bronchitis will come upon you rapidly and normally only lasts for a short period by responding to treatment. Chronic bronchitis may have a rapid onset but will continue to affect you with no full resolution of symptoms. Bronchitis is considered chronic if you have a persistent cough most days of the month for more than three months.

Proving Bacterial Involvement

It is important to differentiate between a viral infection and a bacterial infection because the treatment options for the two differ so greatly.  Antibiotics are used in the treatment of bacterial infections. Viral infections do not respond to antibiotics.

Most bronchitis infections are viral.  They usually start out as a cold that grows progressively worse affecting the air passageways and lungs.  It will normally clear up within 7-10 days and may require an expectorant, humidifier, and plenty of fluids.  If the bronchitis is bacterial, treatment will require antibiotics.

Testing For Bacteria

The only way to prove bacterial involvement is to swab a sample of what you cough up. The mucous sample is then spread on a sterile growth medium that is contained in a Petri dish. Any bacteria in the mucous will grow in the Petri dish. Within a specified time frame, the bacteria growing will then be analyzed under a microscope. Various stains will be used to determine if there is any bacterial infection and the type of bacteria.



“Bronchitis: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2010.

“Bronchitis –” Mayo Clinic medical information and tools for healthy living – N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2010.

“Bronchitis.” University of Maryland Medical Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2010.

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