Everything You Need to Know About How Antibiotics Work


An antibiotic is any substance that interferes with the ability of bacteria to function normally (remember, the bacteria are living organisms). Can inhibit their growth (bacteriostatic antibiotic) or kill bacteria (bactericidal antibiotics). Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections, ranging from almost deadly diseases such as meningitis, common problems such as acne and tonsillitis. Antibiotics do not serve to cure diseases caused by viruses such as colds or flu.

History of antibiotics

Penicillin, the first antibiotic, was discovered in 1928 by Alexander Fleming in London, England. Fleming made his discovery when he observed that bacteria could not survive in a culture dish containing a mold often found on bread.

s scientists have spent years developing the method for purifying penicillin from that mold. In the early 40’s, penicillin was already widely available. Shortly thereafter, other antibiotics were discovered.

The discovery of penicillin was considered a medical miracle because it helped to eradicate many of the diseases caused by bacteria. This meant that deadly diseases such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, syphilis and tetanus could now be treated. However, over time, the bacteria began to become resistant to antibiotics.

How do antibiotics work?

Different antibiotics have different ways to fight the bacteria. They may, for example:

• Change the structure of the cell wall of bacteria - bacteria break down, literally, due to liquid penetration through the cell wall.

Examples: penicillin (and its derivatives - ampicillin and cloxacillin), cephalosporins (eg, cefoxitin), vancomycin

• Interfere in the production of proteins - Proteins are necessary for the production of new bacteria to replace the bacteria that are old and dying. Some antibiotics interfere with the ability of bacteria to produce proteins that are used to build important parts of the cell.

Examples: tetracyclines, aminoglycosides (eg gentamicin, tobramycin), macrolides (eg azithromycin, erythromycin, clarithromycin)

• Interfere with DNA synthesis - These antibiotics interfere with the production of new chromosomes, the cell’s genetic information.

Examples: quinolones (ciprofloxacin)

What is antibiotic resistance?

When bacteria develop the ability to defend itself from the effect of an antibiotic, is said to have acquired resistance to antibiotics. Over the years, the pathogenic bacteria - bacteria that cause disease - have become resistant to many conventional antibiotics due to abuse or misuse them.

Common myths and reality

MYTH: Can I stop taking my antibiotics as you start to feel better.

REALITY: Even if you feel better, you need to continue to take the antibiotic exactly as your doctor prescribed. If you do not finish the antibiotics, some of the dangerous bacteria can not die, so you can get sick again. The bacteria that are still alive may also become resistant and cause infection which has become more difficult to treat.

MYTH: Since taking the right dosage, can take the antibiotic at any time of day.

Reality: Antibiotics are not as effective if not taken on time. As the drugs remain in the body for a certain period of time, take each dose according to the instructions of your doctor and pharmacist. Taking antibiotics irregularly, allows bacteria to adapt and multiply, increasing the problem of antibiotic resistance.

MYTH: I can save the rest of the antibiotic to take the next time you get sick.

REALITY: You should never take antibiotics the rest stored, whether another person or his. Specific antibiotics are effective against specific bacteria and it is wrong to assume that the antibiotic of another person (or one of its antibiotics have saved from other diseases) will work. Antibiotics should always be taken until the end, unless your doctor instructs you to stop. Any remaining product should be returned to your pharmacy.

Myth: Antibiotics help cure colds and flu.

REALITY: Colds and flu - and the accompanying symptoms such as sore throat, aches, chills, runny nose, sore eyes, and dry cough - are caused by viruses. Infections caused by viruses do not respond to antibiotics. Antibiotics only help if the disease is caused by a bacterial infection.

MYTH: I have become resistant to antibiotics.

REALITY: In fact, bacteria are developing resistance to antibiotics, not people. When bacteria become resistant, the antibiotic is no longer effective to inhibit or kill bacteria. Some people believe that they will not develop resistance because they always took antibiotics as prescribed, or because they never had to take antibiotics. This is a very serious mistake, because any person can be infected by bacteria resistant to antibiotics.

Reducing the problem of antibiotic resistance

Antibiotic resistance - why do we care?

One way bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics is through changes in their genes that modify the specific target where the drug binds. These changes mean that these bacteria are no longer recognized by this specific antibiotic. Another way of developing resistance is the ability they acquire the bacteria to pump the antibiotic out of the bacterial cell (her own).

The infectious disease specialists say that resistance rates may be used locally to help doctors decide which antibiotic should be prescribed. For example, if you live in an area of ​​low resistance to a particular antibiotic, your doctor will probably decide that it is safe to prescribe this antibiotic. If you live in an area with a high rate of resistance to a particular antibiotic, then your doctor will probably choose a different antibiotic, so that rates of resistance does not increase further.

But your doctor needs your help. Remember to carefully follow the instructions when taking antibiotics because you can play an important role in helping to reduce antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotics - Prudent use

Even need an antibiotic?

The symptoms of colds and flu including runny nose, inflamed eyes, dry cough, sore throat, chills and aches are caused by viruses, which do not respond to antibiotic treatment.

Taking antibiotics for colds or flu can increase the problem of antibiotic resistance.

When to take the antibiotic?

You should take the antibiotic at the same time every day, according to the instructions of your doctor and pharmacist. The drugs remain in your body for a certain period of time, which means taking the antibiotic irregular will allow bacteria to adapt and multiply, increasing the problem of antibiotic resistance. Take the antibiotic while another regular daily activities, such as meals, to help keep the schedule. Posting a notice on your refrigerator or schedule a warning on your computer can also be useful.

You should take the antibiotic until the end?

You can start feeling better several days after starting antibiotics. Do not stop taking it and not save the rest for the next time you feel unwell. Must take the medicine for as long as your doctor has advised, in order to completely kill the bacteria. Otherwise, some of the dangerous bacteria can not die and thus can get sick again. Bacteria that survive after an incomplete treatment can become resistant and cause infection which has become more difficult to treat.

What to do if not improve with antibiotics?

Ask your doctor what to do if you feel better after a few days taking the antibiotic that has been prescribed.

If your doctor prescribes an antibiotic, it is very important that:

Follow the instructions

Take the antibiotic on time

Take the antibiotic for as long as your doctor has advised, even if you feel better after a few days of treatment

Never take antibiotics for another person

These guidelines are important because when antibiotics are not used properly, the weak bacteria are killed but the stronger, more resistant, survive and multiply. These resistant bacteria can cause infections that are very difficult to treat, which means that antibiotics may not be as effective when they are even necessary.

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