AIDS, Malaria, Syphilis … Preventing infectious diseases with no vaccine

AIDS, Malaria, Syphilis … Preventing infectious diseases with no vaccine


The list of infectious diseases is huge.

And although there is a vaccine for many of these diseases – those caused by microorganisms such as a virus, bacteria, protozoan or fungus – there are also others for those that do not, such as AIDS, leprosy, hepatitis C, malaria or syphilis.

The good news is that they have treatment and good forecasts. And there are also things that can be done to prevent infection .

Next, we explain these pathologies, their symptoms, treatments and ways to avoid them.


What it is : it is a sexually transmitted infection (STD) caused by HIV, a retrovirus that attacks the immune system.

It is transmitted through vaginal, anal and oral sex, and also through the use of infected syringes and puncture instruments, as well as through the transfusion of contaminated blood. An infected mother can also pass it on to her child during pregnancy, delivery or breastfeeding.

It is important to emphasize that HIV is not the same as having AIDS: there are many people who are HIV positive (the virus is present in their body) who spend years without presenting any symptoms and without developing the disease. The acronym “AIDS” derives from acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, and refers to the disease created by the virus.

Symptoms: in the initial phase, called acute infection, the disease can easily be confused with a simple flu, it causes fever and malaise.

Other common signs are spots on the body, swollen glands in the neck and sore throat. The next phase, which is asymptomatic and can last several years, “is marked by the strong interaction between defense cells and the constant and rapid mutations of the virus.”

Then comes the phase in which symptoms appear: diarrhea, fever, asthenia (loss or decrease in physical strength), night sweats and weight loss of more than 10%. With the passage of time, the immune system is increasingly weak, favoring the emergence of diseases such as viral hepatitis, tuberculosis, pneumonia, toxoplasmosis and even some types of cancer.

Diagnosis and treatment: AIDS is diagnosed with a blood test and treatment consists of a combination antiretroviral (ARV), whose functions are to prevent replication of HIV in the body and prevent the weakening of the immune system to improve the quality of life and prolong survival. The patient will need to take the medication for the rest of his life.

Prevention : use of condoms (either female or male) in all sexual relationships and the use of disposable syringes and needles and gloves to manipulate wounds and body fluids.


What it is : it is an infectious, contagious, curable disease that mainly affects the skin and peripheral nerves. It is caused by the bacillus Mycobacterium leprae and its transmission occurs through contact with coughs and sneezes, and through close and prolonged contact with infected people.

Symptoms: vary depending on the type of disease, but the most common are whitish spots, reddish or brown in any part of the body, accompanied by the loss or alteration of thermal sensitivity (heat and cold), touch and pain, especially in the extremities of the hands and feet, in the face, in the ears, in the trunk, in the buttocks and in the legs.

It can also cause hair loss, absence of sweating, swelling and decreased strength of the muscles of the hands and feet, fever, edema, joint pain, muscle atrophy and bleeding from the nose. The aggravation of the disease can still cause serious physical and oral deformities and eye problems.

Leprosy diagnosis
Copyright of the image AGÊNCIA BRASIL
Image caption To diagnose leprosy it is necessary to perform clinical, dermatoneurological and sensitivity tests.

Diagnosis and treatment : to diagnose leprosy it is necessary to do clinical, dermatoneurological and sensitivity exams.

The treatment is ambulatory (without the need to be hospitalized) and is done with the use of the polychemotherapeutic antibiotic. The duration is determined by the doctor: it can be between six months and two years. With the correct treatment, uninterrupted and done in the initial stages of the disease, leprosy has a cure. In addition, during treatment patients cease to be contagious and therefore do not need to remain in isolation.

Prevention : to avoid contracting leprosy it is essential to avoid contact with infected people. Apart from that, when the disease is already present, the best way to prevent it is the physical incapacitations it causes is early diagnosis.

Hepatitis C

What it is : caused by a virus (HCV), hepatitis C is an infection that affects the liver.

Its transmission occurs through contact with infected blood, which can occur by sharing syringes, needles, razor blades, nail pliers and other contaminated objects. It can also be transmitted in surgical, dental, hemodialysis, transfusion and endoscopy procedures when the biosafety norms are not applied and, less commonly, in childbirth and during unprotected sex.

Symptoms: not always the disease symptoms, and often are unspecific, which makes it more difficult to diagnose. Anyway, some of them are weakness, yellowish skin and eyes, dark urine, light stools, malaise, dizziness, vomiting and mild fever.

When the virus persists for more than six months, which is common in up to 80% of cases, it can evolve into the chronic form. When this happens, one in five patients is at risk of developing cirrhosis and, from 1% to 5%, liver cancer.

Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES image
Image caption Caused by a virus, hepatitis C causes inflammation of the liver.

Diagnosis and treatment : hepatitis C, diagnosed through the blood test, has treatment with a high probability of success (from 90% to 95%) when followed correctly. Normally, it lasts about three months with the use of direct-acting antivirals.

Prevention : avoiding illness is easy, just do not share personal items, such as a toothbrush, razor, pliers, syringe and needle; Make sure that the objects used in beauty and tattoo parlors, for example, have been properly sterilized and use a condom. Other than that, every pregnant woman needs to have prenatal exams to detect the pathology.


What it is : it is an acute, non-contagious febrile infectious disease, caused by Plasmodium protozoa – there are more than 100 types – transmitted by the infected female of the Anopheles mosquito .

Symptoms: the main is high fever, 38 ° C or 39 ° C, chills, sweating and tremor. It can happen in a cyclical way, going back and forth every three days, more or less. Before that, it is common for the patient to feel nauseous, tired and lack of appetite. In the severe form there may be prostration, altered consciousness, shortness of breath or hyperventilation, seizure, arterial hypotension or shock and hemorrhage.

Mosquitoes in water
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES image
Image caption Stagnant waters are used as breeding places by mosquitoes.

Diagnosis and treatment: Treatment involves medications that are selected according to factors such as the species of the infecting protozoa, severity, age of the patient and the associated conditions (pregnancy and other health problems, for example).

Prevention : there is no vaccine against malaria, but a group of researchers from the Center for Cellular and Molecular Therapy of the Federal University of São Paulo (Unifesp) and the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences of the University of São Paulo (FCF-USP) are developing one to combat the form of malaria with greater geographical distribution and prevalence in the American continent, the vivax.

Until then, the important thing is to avoid being bitten by the transmitting mosquito at all costs.

It is recommended not to go out in the afternoon without protection, wear light-colored clothes that cover the largest possible length of the body, do not wear perfume, apply long-lasting mosquito repellent and install a mosquito net on the bed and screens on the windows and doors.

It is also essential to avoid places with stagnant water, since that is where mosquitoes breed.


What is it: it is a sole ETS of human beings, caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum . It has different stages (primary, secondary, latent and tertiary) and two types: acquired, when transmitted by sex without a condom with an infected person, and congenital, when the baby is passed during pregnancy or delivery.

Syphilis test
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES image
Image caption The test for the diagnosis of syphilis is simple and fast: through a blood test and / or a cytology of the skin lesion.

Symptoms: and hepatitis C, the disease virtually no symptoms in the early stage. What can happen is that a wound arises in the penis, the vulva, or the vagina, the cervix or the anus. In most cases, if you do not scratch, it hurts or burns and heals itself, so many do not go to the doctor.

In the secondary phase, it is common to suffer spots on the body, fever, malaise, headache and buboes (inflammation of lymph nodes) are common. The latent, divided between recent (up to 1 year after infection) and late (more than 1 year after), is asymptomatic.

In the tertiary, the signs arise in a period of between 2 and 40 years after infection and include lesions in various organs and tissues, which can generate dementia, aneurysm of the aorta and arthritis, among other diseases. In the case of congenital syphilis, the risks are abortion, malformation of the fetus, deafness, blindness, mental deficiency and even death of the baby at birth.

Diagnosis and treatment: the test for the diagnosis of syphilis is simple and fast. It is done through a blood analysis or laboratory analysis of skin lesions. Once the disease is confirmed, the treatment is performed only with penicillin, whose dose will depend on the stage.

Prevention : it is prevented with the regular use of condoms.

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