What are antibiotics and why are they so widely used?
Antibiotics are a group of medicinal drugs which are used to treat infections caused by a particular type of germs known as bacteria. Antibiotics don’t work against viral or fungal infections but in case if a bacterial infection co-exists, antibiotics are used to treat it.
What are the different types of antibiotics?
There are many sub classifications of antibiotics and they are based on the type of bacteria they kill, either they kill or just stop the bacterial growth, the route of administration of antibiotics. Different types of antibiotics are preferred in different settings according to the needs of the patient.
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When to start antibiotic therapy?
Antibiotics are started once there is clear evidence of bacterial infection. This evidence is provided through lab tests, especially the tests like blood/other body fluid culture. These tests confirm the presence of bacteria in that tested fluid as well as the type of antibiotics that should be used against that particular bacteria. But there are special circumstances where the initiation of the therapy is decided on the patient’s history and clinical examination. This type of therapy is known as empirical therapy. Samples for tests are obtained prior to the commencement of the therapy and broad spectrum antibiotics are used for the suspected condition. Empirical therapy is used when the delay can result in catastrophic consequences. Infections like meningitis require empirical therapy.
How long should an antibiotic be used?
Different types of infections require different types of antibiotics and most of the antibiotics have different mechanisms of action so they take different duration of time to start its function and complete eradication of the infection. So dosing and dosing interval as well as duration of the therapy depends on factors like:
- Type of infection. e.g Tuberculosis requires 4-9 months of therapy
- Body Organ involved e.g infections involving brain require longer therapy.
- Type of antibiotics and how the body reacts to that antibiotic.
How does antibiotic resistance develop ?
Resistance to antibiotics is an unfortunate phenomenon which describes the inability of an antibiotic to eradicate a particular infection which was previously treated successfully with the same antibiotic.
Resistance develops due to poor choice of antibiotic, unnecessary use, improper dosing and poor compliance to the therapy.
What are the disadvantages of using antibiotics?
There are various types of disadvantages of antibiotics. They can be physical, economical and physiological.
Physical disadvantages are the impairment of body functions due to the use of any particular antibiotics:
- Poor taste
Economical disadvantages are:
- High cost
- Long therapies
- Lab tests are required before and after the antibiotic therapy
- Development of resistance calls for more research and development of new antibiotics which requires a huge capital.
Physiological disadvantages are:
- Antibiotics can slow or fasten the metabolism of other drugs in the body.
- Antibiotics can decrease the absorption of essential nutrients.
- Antibiotics can kill good bacteria residing in our body which provides essential immunity and nutrients.
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