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How Do Antibiotics Work?

How Do Antibiotics Work?2017.09.15

Antibiotics are commonly seen in the doctors’ prescriptions which always come in forms of tablets, capsules, liquids, and ointments. And they are very effective for the diseases caused by bacteria such as colds, coughs, sore throats and fever.

 

But most people still have no idea what antibiotics are, how they work on the bacteria infections, how to use them and if they have any side effects. In this article, we will answer all of these questions.

 

First, what are the antibiotics?

Antibiotics, also named antibacterials, are powerful medications to fight certain infections in human body by killing the bacteria or stopping them from reproducing.

When we are infected, our white blood cells will attack the harmful bacteria and our immune system can usually fight off the infections. But sometimes, it is too hard to dispel them and our body needs some external help, that would be antibiotics.

We need to remember that antibiotics are ineffective to illnesses caused by viruses, they are only useful against the infections caused by bacteria.

 

How do antibiotics work?

Some antibiotics can fight many types of germs in the body, while others may be specific. If your doctor can identify what bacteria cause the infections by the blood or urine tests, then he or she may prescribe an antibacterial that can target those germs.

Though there are hundreds of antibiotics in clinical use, they all work in one of the following ways: 1) interfere with the formation of or directly attack the bacterial cell wall and weaken or injure the cell wall until it bursts and can no longer attack the body 2) stop the bacteria cell from multiplying or reproducing by damaging the bacteria’s ability to grow new cells.

Therefore, in some cases, antibiotics may be used to prevent rather than treat an infection.

 

How to use antibiotics?

Before you use antibiotics, make sure you do not have allergic reactions to an antibiotic, especially penicillins, which may be very serious and sometimes fatal.

When taking an antibiotic, you should not take other medicines or herbal remedies without speaking with your doctor for they may interact with antibiotics.

And use them as prescribed. If you do not take the complete run of your medication or overuse antibiotics when you don’t need them, you may cause a bigger problem to your body called antibiotic-resistant bacteria. That means the antibiotics designed to destroy some specific bacteria may be less effective against that organism because they have developed resistance to the drugs and the antibiotic-resistant infections may result in longer treatment or more hospitalizations.

 

Then, do the antibiotics have any side effects?

As powerful as the antibiotics can be, they may produce side effects in some people. When the antibiotics work to destroy the infection-causing bacteria in your body, at the same time, they may also kill good bacteria living inside your body and may cause vaginal infections, stomach discomforts, loose stools, or nausea. Some children have allergic reactions to penicillin or other antibiotics, and may suffer from skin rashes or breathing difficulties. If these symptoms are severe, then you need to call your doctor and go to the hospital right away.

 

 

Source:

 

Xu Jien & Zhu Mingzhen 1982. Antibiotics. Beijing: Sciences Press.

 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "Antibiotic / Antimicrobial Resistance." (August 18, 2017). http://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/

 

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