Authored by Content Cookie in Medicine
Published on 03-14-2009
The moment you visit your doctor because you are suffering from some illness, he is in all likelihood going to prescribe an antibiotic for you. Antibiotics are drugs, which make sure that all the harmful bacteria are either killed or their growth is slowed down. There is a large group of such drugs which are known as antimicrobials. These include drugs which are anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-parasitic. Antibiotics belong to the group of antimicrobials.
One would be surprised to know that antibiotics are derived from fungi and bacteria. In fact, penicillin which is so commonly used today is made from the blue and white mould on old bread. That is the reason why ancient Egyptians used moldy bread upon wounds more than 3000 years ago. The bread was slapped on the wound and then it was bandaged in clean linen. Centuries later, the same procedure is being used by doctors. We can thank Alexander Fleming for this discovery because he did not throw away some moldy growth that appeared on his test Petri dishes. An analysis of this growth showed that it was capable of killing viruses and bacteria. The antibiotics, which can kill bacteria, are known as bactericidal antibiotics. Others, which stop them from multiplying, are known as bacteriostatic antibiotics.
Different antibiotics have different effects upon bacteria. In this manner, they can stop bacteria from reproducing or functioning properly. Many antibiotics are capable of treating a large variety of infections. These antibiotics are called broad-spectrum antibiotics. Other antibiotics which are limited to curing just a few diseases are known as narrow spectrum drugs. There is a not-so-good side to every good thing, and the same goes for antibiotics. On one hand they are capable of saving plenty of lives and on the other hand, they are capable of producing some side effects which though temporary in nature are quite distressing and unpleasant. They are limited to the time during which the antibiotics are being taken. These side effects may include nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Antibiotics are not selective about which bacteria they kill. That is why they quite eagerly kill even the good bacteria present in your body along with the harmful ones. Some people might also be allergic to some antibiotics. In fact penicillin is quite a common antibiotic which many people are allergic to. You might end up with a swollen face or break out into a skin rash and in extreme cases you might even have difficulty breathing.
Aminoglycosides are used with cephalosporins and penicillin to kill bacteria. They are used only for a small period of time. Long usage can cause kidney problems and that is the reason why they are used only in small dosages. Gentamicin is an example of this antibiotic. Cephalosporins are among the most advanced of the new generation antibiotics. These antibiotics can have destructive effects on certain stubborn and resistant bacteria. These are used to treat tonsillitis, pneumonia, bronchitis, and a number of skin infections. Cephradine is a good example of this antibiotic. Penicillin is used to treat dental, ear, respiratory tract and skin infections. Tetracyclines are broad-spectrum drugs.
As newer infections and diseases are reported each day, scientists are also trying to beat the invaders at their own game by developing better and more effective drugs with fewer side effects. There is really no complete cure in sight for many ailments but we are at least half way there in most cases.