Antibiotic are prescription drugs that kill or slow the growth of bacteria. They are used for treating infections in humans and animals. The word antibiotic comes from the Greek anti meaning 'against' and bios meaning 'life' (a bacterium is a life form).' Antibiotics are also known as antibacterials, and they are drugs used to treat infections caused by bacteria. Bacteria are tiny organisms that can sometimes cause illness to humans and animals.
Penicillin was the first antibiotic. Discovered in 1896, French physician Ernest Duchesne noted in that certain Penicillium molds killed bacteria. Prior to the discovery of antibiotics, poisons such as strychnine were also used for treating infections.
Why should I be aware of this?
- Each antibiotic is effective only for certain types of infections. Your doctor is best able to compare your needs with the available medicines.
- A person may have allergies that eliminate a class of antibiotic from consideration. Do let you doctor know if you are allergic to any group of antibiotic.
- Antibiotics kill the beneficial bacteria along with the harmful bacteria, leading to health problems.
All about antibiotics
Antibiotics belong to the class of "antimicrobials" -- a larger group which also includes anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-parasitic drugs. Antibiotics, like others in this group of drugs, are relatively harmless to the host, and therefore can be used to treat infection. The term antibiotics originally described only those formulations derived from living organisms, but is now applied also to synthetic antimicrobials, such as the sulfonamides.
- Antibiotics are not effective in viral, fungal and other nonbacterial infections.
- Individual antibiotics vary widely in their effectiveness on various types of bacteria.
- Some specific antibiotics target either gram-negative or gram-positive bacteria, and others are more wide-spectrum antibiotics.
- The effectiveness of individual antibiotics varies with the location of the infection and the ability of the antibiotic to reach this site.
- Oral antibiotics are the simplest approach when effective, with intravenous antibiotics reserved for more serious cases.
- Antibiotics may sometimes be administered topically, as with eyedrops or ointments.
Antibiotics have an anti-bacterial effect. They either kill bacteria in the system or keep them from reproducing. This allows the infected body to heal by producing its own defenses and overcome the infection. Bacteria are organisms that cause infections.
A health professional will prescribe an antibiotic to treat an illness based on:
- Whether taking an antibiotic will reduce the length or severity of the illness.
- The person's age. (For example, some antibiotics are not safe for children.)
- The symptoms.
- Other medical problems that the person may have.
- The severity of the illness.
- How likely it is that a certain antibiotic will kill the bacteria believed to be causing the symptoms.
- Whether the person is allergic to any antibiotics.
- Whether a woman is pregnant.
Most antibiotics have 2 names, the trade or brand name, created by the drug company that manufactures the drug, and a generic name, based on the antibiotic's chemical structure or chemical class.
In most cases of antibiotic use, a doctor must choose an antibiotic based on the most likely cause of the infection. Other factors may be considered when choosing an antibiotic. Medication cost, dosing schedule, and common side effects are often taken into account. Patterns of infection in the community may be considered also.
Beneficial bacteria and antibiotics
An adult human has three to four pounds of beneficial bacteria and yeast living in their intestines. These microbes compete for nutrients from the food the person eats. Usually, the significant numbers of beneficial bacteria present in the intestine keeps the ever-present yeasts in check and causes them to produce nutrients such as the B vitamins.
However, every time a person takes antibiotics to kill harmful bacteria, it also kills the beneficial bacteria within their intestines. When this happens, the delicate balance of the intestine gets disturbed. Yeasts grow unchecked into large colonies and take over, leading to a condition called dysbiosis.
What can I do?
- Read the label carefully. The expiry date and the dosage is important.
- Ask your pharmacist if there is anything you should know about the medication.
- Find out how the medication is to be taken. Some medications need to be taken with something in your stomach such as a glass of milk or a few crackers, and others only with water. Taking the antibiotics incorrectly may affect their absorption, reducing or eliminating their effectiveness.
- Store the medication correctly. Many children's antibiotics need to be refrigerated, while others are best left at room temperature.
- Take the entire course of antibiotics. If an antibiotic is stopped in midcourse, the bacteria may be partially treated and not completely killed, causing the bacteria to be resistant to the antibiotic, resulting in a reinfection.
- There is a myth that antibiotics weaken the body's immune system. This myth stems from the observation that a few people go on to develop new infections after having taken an antibiotic. Since no antibiotic can kill all kinds of bacteria, sometimes the initial infection is cured, but another infection develops from bacteria that are resistant to the antibiotic.
- It is widely believed that some antibiotics are stronger than others. Actually, antibiotics are not stronger or weaker than each other, but they do differ in
- Their ability to get to the site of the infection. If an antibiotic cannot penetrate into the site of the infection (e.g., the brain), it cannot cure that infection.
- Their ability to kill or inactivate the infecting bacteria once they get there.
90 degrees -- what we still do not know
- Traditionally antibiotics have not proven effective in treating asthma attacks. Researchers at Imperial College London have demonstrated that an antibiotic is effective at treating acute asthma attacks, potentially providing a new way to help asthma sufferers. This development could open up a whole new area of research in the treatment of asthma.
- One research speculates that antibiotics commonly used to treat urinary tract infections can make some bacteria cells become dormant instead of eliminating all disease-causing bacteria. These could later reawaken and trigger a new infection - but nothing is proven yet.
- Up to one in five people on antibiotics stop taking their full course of antibiotic therapy due to diarrhea. Physicians could help patients avoid this problem by prescribing probiotics, according to a study by researchers. 
- Children who receive antibiotics within their first six months of birth increase their risk of developing allergies to pets, ragweed, grass and dust mites and asthma by age 7, according to study conducted at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. However, they are less susceptible to these effects if they live with at least two pets, namely dogs or cats, in the first year.
- Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have discovered how some bacteria can survive antibiotic treatment by turning on resistance mechanisms when exposed to the drugs. The findings could lead to more effective antibiotics to treat a variety of infections.
- Antibiotics are routinely prescribed unnecessarily for acute bronchitis, according to researchers. Almost all the causes of short-term bronchitis are viral and therefore do not respond to antibiotics.
- General practitioners are unnecessarily giving patients antibiotics for respiratory tract infections which would clear up on their own.
- General practitioners are still prescribing antibiotics for up to 80% of cases of sore throat, otitis media, upper respiratory tract infections, and sinusitis, despite the fact that official guidance warns against this practice. 
- It has been found that four out of five patients who are seen in primary care with simple sinusitis improved within two weeks even if they had not been given antibiotics. When antibiotics were given they speeded up recovery from symptoms, but only marginally.
- What is antibiotic?
- ANTIBIOTICS KILL YOUR BODY'S GOOD BACTERIA CAUSING DISEASE
- Antibiotic Myths
- Antibiotics for Asthma
- Controversial theory blames antibiotics for repeat UTIs
- ↑ Probiotics May Help People Taking Antibiotics:ScienceDaily
- ↑ Study Shows Link Between Antibiotics And Allergies, Asthma:ScienceDaily
- ↑ How Some Bacteria Survive Antibiotics:ScienceDaily
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 Antibiotics Unnecessarily Prescribed For Acute Bronchitis:ScienceDaily
- ↑ Antibiotic Resistance: Doctors' Antibiotic Prescribing Practices Still Contributing To Problem:ScienceDaily
- ↑ Think Twice Before Using Antibiotics For Acute Maxillary Sinusitis:ScienceDaily