What are Antibiotics ? Can antibiotics reduce virus infections, Know about it
Antibiotics Awareness: When To Use Antibiotics & When Not To
Since they were discovered almost a century ago, antibiotics have transformed modern medicine and they are regarded as a gamechanger. To be fair, they didn’t just revolutionize medicine, they also transformed human history. Before antibiotics were widely available, most people would count themselves lucky if they lived to the age of about 45-50 years. Mortality from childhood illnesses was also exceedingly common. All of this changed for the better with antibiotics, which is why they have come to be regarded by many as a miracle cure. However, the truth is a lot more complicated and its important for everyone to understand how antibiotics work.
What Are Antibiotics?
Any medication or substance that inhibits the proliferation of bacteria or destroys bacteria is referred to as an antibiotic. In medicine, antibiotics are antimicrobial agents that specifically target different types of bacterial infections within the body. This is what distinguishes antibiotics from other antimicrobials as the term antimicrobial is broader and can also include antifungal and antiviral medications.
There are also different types of antibiotics, with some that are highly specialized against specific strains of bacteria. At the same time there are others that can fight a wide range of bacteria and these are referred to as broad-spectrum antibiotics. The downside with broad-spectrum antibiotics is that they will also destroy healthy or good bacteria.
Antibiotics work to fight bacterial infections by preventing their replication or reproduction, or by actually destroying the bacteria.
When Are Antibiotics Needed?
As you may have deduced by now, antibiotics are only meant to treat certain bacterial infections. However, they shouldn’t be the go-to treatment for all bacterial infections, as some infections can resolve without the use of antibiotics. Instead, these life-saving medications should be treated with respect and must only be used when the situation demands, as determined by your doctors.
Appropriate use of antibiotics is important as we depend on these medications to deal with life-threatening illnesses like pneumonia, which are typically an extreme response infection. These medications are also needed to lower the risk of potentially life-threatening infections that can strike patients undergoing surgery, chemotherapy, and so on. In these situations, the benefits of antibiotic use far outweigh any risk of side effects.
Why You Shouldn’t Use Antibiotics for Viral Infections
Antibiotics have no effect on viruses that are responsible for some of the most common infections, including the common cold, seasonal flu, and so on. This is because viruses are completely different organisms from bacteria, having different structures and mechanisms of survival. Unlike bacteria, they do not have cell walls that can be destroyed by antibiotics. Instead, they move into and hijack your body’s cells, reprogramming them to generate new viruses. This makes antibiotics ineffective and using them in such situations will only expose you to side effects, but no real benefits.
While most side effects of unwarranted antibiotic use are mild, such as an increase in rashes, nausea, yeast infections, and diarrhea, there can also be more severe side effects. One such risk is the threat of Clostridioides difficile infection, which can result in severe diarrhea that may even damage the colon and be fatal. Most worryingly, using antibiotics in a manner that is not consistent with medical recommendations can reduce the efficacy of the medication and increase the risk of antibiotic resistance. In other words, that antibiotic is less likely to work in the future, when you may need it as a life-saving medication.
So, the next time you fall ill, don’t just pop antibiotic pills and stop trying to pressure your doctor into prescribing antibiotics.
Dr V Rajendra
MBBS, MD, FNB, EDIC, FCCCM
Head of the Department - Critical Care
Disclaimer:The views and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author. They do not reflect the opinions or views of the organization.