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A nurse gives a young girl a vaccination.Diseases can be infectious—caused by bacteria or viruses, for example—or non-infectious. Infectious diseases include colds and measles; non-infectious ones include diabetes or cancer. Practised by doctors and nurses, medicine is the diagnosis (identification), prevention and treatment of disease. The word "medicine" also refers to drugs and other preparations used to treat or prevent illness. These include vaccinations that enable the body’s immune system to prevent infection.

A patient undergoes an operation in an operating theatre in a hospital.

Types of treatment

Two important types of treatment—and sometimes prevention—of disease are medical and surgical. Medical help involves chemicals or drugs. These may be obtained from natural substances such as plants or micro-organisms (for example, vaccines), or made in the laboratory (for example, chemicals used in chemotherapy to destroy cancer cells). Surgery involves physical treatment, for example, cutting open the body during an operation, to remove a diseased part or mend a broken bone.

Malaria is caused by a single-celled organism (a protist) called Plasmodium. Transmitted from person to person by blood-feeding mosquitoes, it invades blood and liver cells and causes repeated fevers. Malaria can be prevented by drugs. About 2500 people die from malaria each day.


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