Most people have used an antibiotic at some point to treat one illness or another. But do you know exactly how they work to treat an illness?
Antibiotics are chemicals that are used to kill bacteria or slow down their growth. Bacteria are tiny one-celled organisms, visible only through microscope.
There are billions of bacteria living in the body including on the skin, inside the mouth, throat, and the digestive system. While there are friendly bacteria in the body serving positive roles such as break down of nutrients, others are harmful and can cause diseases.
Antibiotic medicines are used to treat infections or illnesses caused by bacteria such as tuberculosis, salmonella among others. It is important to understand that antibiotics will not be effective at treating illnesses caused by other microorganisms such as viruses, fungus, or parasites.
There are different types of antibiotics but they all work in one of the following ways;
Bacteriostatic: these antibiotics work by stopping the bacteria from growing or multiplying. They prevent the bacteria from getting the needed nutrients, hence stopping their division and multiplication.
Since the disease process requires millions of bacteria, bacteriostatic antibiotics help stop the infection and allow the immune system time to attack the bacteria. Examples include erythromycin and tetracycline.
Bactericidal: these antibiotics kill bacteria completely and a good example is penicillin. A bactericidal can directly attack the cell wall of the bacteria hence injuring the cell. When this happens, the bacterium is no longer able to attack the body, thus preventing these harmful cells from causing more damage in the body.
There are narrow-spectrum and broad-spectrum antibiotics. Narrow-spectrum antibiotics treat just a few types of bacteria while broad-spectrum antibiotics are effective against a variety of infections.
There are antibiotics that work against bacteria that require oxygen (aerobic) and others that attack bacteria that do not require oxygen (anaerobic).
An antibiotic must have the ability to break through the cell walls of the bacterial for it to effectively treat a bacterial infection.
Antibiotics can be administered in various ways;
Injections — these are administered as injection or infusion via a drip directly into the muscle or blood. They are mostly reserved for bacterial infections that are more serious.
Oral — they come in form of capsules, pills, and tablets or liquid. They treat mild to moderate bacterial infections.
Topical — these include lotions, creams, drops, or sprays. They are often used for treatment of skin infections.
It is very important to complete antibiotic dose as prescribed, even when you feel fine, except if the doctor advises otherwise. Stopping antibiotic medication can cause the bacteria to become resistant. Bacteria are said to be antibiotic-resistant when the antibiotic they were previously sensitive at no longer stops their activities. This mainly occurs as a result of misuse or excessive use of antibiotics.
To safely use antibiotics and avoid resistance;
Make sure to get accurate diagnosis. This helps to effectively treat an illness and prevent needless use of antibiotics. Do not take antibiotics for viral illnesses such as flu and cold as they are not effective against viruses
Follow doctor’s instructions or as directed on the labels on how to take antibiotic medicine
Finish your course of antibiotics to ensure that all bacteria have been destroyed
Report to your doctor immediately if you experience any side effects like diarrhoea. Do not stop or change medication without doctor’s authorization
Do not share antibiotics as these medicines are strong and can result into serious side effects
Practice good hygiene which includes regular hand washing to prevent yourself from contracting bacterial infections
SOURCE: DAILY NATION