Antibiotics

Antibiotics, also known as antibacterials, are types of medications that destroy or slow down the growth of bacteria. The Greek word anti means "against", and the Greek word bios means "life" (bacteria are life forms). Antibiotics are used to treat infections caused by bacteria. Bacteria are microscopic organisms, some of which may cause illness. The word bacteria is the plural of bacterium.

Such illnesses as syphilis, tuberculosis, salmonella, and some forms of meningitis are caused by bacteria. Some bacteria are harmless, while others are good for us.

What are antibiotics

The US National Library of Medicine1 says that antibiotics - powerful medicines that fight bacterial infections - can save lives when used properly. Antibiotics either stop bacteria from reproducing or kill them. "Your body's natural defenses can usually take it from there."

Before bacteria can multiply and cause symptoms, the body's immune system can usually destroy them. We have special white blood cells that attack harmful bacteria. Even if symptoms do occur, our immune system can usually cope and fight off the infection. There are occasions, however, when it is all too much and some help is needed.....from antibiotics.

The first antibiotic was penicillin. Such penicillin-related antibiotics as ampicillin, amoxicillin and benzylpenicilllin are widely used today to treat a variety of infections - these antibiotics have been around for a long time. There are several different types of modern antibiotics and they are only available with a doctor's prescription in most countries.

Overusing antibiotics - There is concern worldwide that antibiotics are being overused. Antibiotic overuse is one of the factors that contributes towards the growing number of bacterial infections which are becoming resistant to antibacterial medications.

Although there are a number of different types of antibiotic they all work in one of two ways:
  • A bactericidal antibiotic kills the bacteria. Penicillin is a bactericidal.
  • A bactericidal usually either interferes with the formation of the bacterium's cell wall or its cell contents.
  • A bacteriostatic stops bacteria from multiplying.

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