Since the outbreak of SARS, Avian flu H5N1 and the recent Influenza A/H1N1, pandemic respiratory pathogens in general attract more attention. While common cold is often caused by rhinovirus, coronavirus and enterovirus during the summertime. Flu on the other hand is more restricted to the winter season (Influenza A and B). The first line of defense against a potential pandemic is a quick and unfailing detection of the pathogen. Other viral respiratory pathogens are types of Adenovirus, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), Parainfluenza virus and Metapneumovirus (MPV).
From the many non viral respiratory pathogens, the most important are Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae which cause pneumonia as well as Chlamydia pneumoniae, Mycoplasma pneumoniae and Legionella pneumophila which can stimulate atypical pneumonia; Klebsiella pneumoniae and Pseudomonas aeruginosa are sometimes found in nosocomial pneumonia.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis is responsible for Tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs but also a variety of other organs such as brain, kidney and spine are susceptible to an infection. The infection can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated properly. Because the infection can spread through aerosol, an accurate, reliable and quick diagnosis is the best insurance against unintended spreading of the pathogen. High-risk groups are the elderly, infants and individuals with compromised immune systems. Poor nutrition and crowded or unsanitary living conditions increase the risk for contracting Tuberculosis.
Whooping cough is still a fatal disease in children due to missing or incomplete vaccination. Because of similar symptoms to common cold the infection with Bordetella may go undiagnosed in adults for many months, while being highly contagious.