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Antibiotics

Antibiotics

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In the past, many people died from diseases caused by bacteria. This was especially true for kids. But, things have changed a lot in the last hundred years. Today, only 7% of children die from these illnesses. Antibiotics are a big reason why. They help fight off these harmful bacteria and keep us healthy.

What are antibiotics?

Antibiotics are chemicals produced by bacteria and fungi that help them fight off other microbes for resources like water or food. They've been a game-changer in medicine over the last few decades because they're really good at killing bacteria without harming the person taking them.

Doctors use antibiotics to treat infectious diseases caused by bacteria. They can be natural, made by bacteria or fungi, or they can be made in a lab to be more effective. One example is Isoniazid, which is made in a lab and used specifically to treat tuberculosis. Overall, antibiotics are some of the most important drugs we have in modern medicine, and they've helped us to treat and cure many diseases that were once deadly.

How do antibiotics work?

Antibiotics work by either killing the bacteria directly (bactericidal), thus resolving its harm, or stopping its growth and ability to multiply (bacteriostatic). In the latter option, the bacteria population remains the same in the infected host, giving the host's immune system a bigger chance of fighting off the infection. These drugs can accomplish this by targeting different critical aspects of the growth or metabolism of bacteria which can include:

Bacteria cell wall synthesis: Penicillin is perhaps one of the most famous antibiotics and the first to be discovered. Penicillin was discovered in 1928 by Alexander Fleming in London. However, it took several years until its full potential to treat infectious diseases was realised, and it became widely available in the 1940s. Penicillin has started a new age in modern therapeutic medicine by providing an effective way to treat, for example, pneumonia or rheumatic fever, which did not exist until that point. Successfully targeting the bacterial cell wall using antibiotics like penicillin requires the infecting bacteria to be growing. Only when the bacteria grow, do they need to expand their cell wall, and this process can be disrupted with penicillin. In these instances, growing bacteria create holes in their cell walls using autolysins enzymes. This allows the cell wall to stretch and binds newly synthesised peptidoglycans. However, in the presence of penicillin, these chains don’t occur. As new holes appear in the growing bacteria, its cell wall becomes progressively weaker. This weakening eventually leads to the bacteria cell bursting from the osmotic pressure potential of its water content.

Cell membrane proteins activity: Quinolones are antibiotics that interfere with DNA replication. These antibiotics target the enzymes that are involved in the replication process, thus preventing the bacteria from reproducing. This can be done by either inhibiting the enzymes from forming the DNA strands or by preventing them from attaching to the existing strands.

Bacterial DNA replication or protein synthesis: Tetracycline and streptomycin are protein synthesis inhibitors, and polymyxin is a membrane inhibitor. Tetracycline works by binding to the 30S ribosomal subunit of the bacteria, thus preventing the bacteria from producing proteins. Streptomycin works by binding to the 30S ribosomal subunit and preventing the formation of the initiation complex, which is necessary for the translation process. Polymyxin works by disrupting the bacterial cell membrane, thus preventing the bacteria from replicating.

Importance of antibiotics

Antibiotics are incredibly important therapeutic tools that have helped to reduce the incidence of infectious diseases caused by bacterial pathogens. They are selective in their action, meaning that they target only bacterial cell components and not those present in the eukaryotic infected host, like human cells. This selectivity ensures that antibiotics' actions are limited to the bacteria and not us, which is why antibiotics are so widely used.

However, it's important to note that antibiotics cannot be used to treat viral illnesses like the common cold, flu or COVID-19. Viruses are not bacteria, so they do not have bacterial antibiotic targets like cell walls. In fact, some scientists argue that viruses aren't even living beings because they need the host’s transcription and translation machinery to replicate. Only antivirals, a different kind of drug, can effectively treat viral illnesses.

It's important to understand the difference between antibiotics and antivirals to ensure that we use the right drugs to treat different types of infections. If we use antibiotics to treat viral infections, we risk promoting antibiotic resistance, which can be dangerous and even life-threatening in some cases. So let's use antibiotics wisely and only when we really need them, to preserve their effectiveness for future generations.

Types of antibiotics

It's important to note that the overuse and misuse of antibiotics has led to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Antibiotic resistance is the ability of bacteria to survive and grow in the presence of antibiotics that would normally kill them. This is a serious public health concern because infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria are more difficult to treat and can lead to longer hospital stays, higher healthcare costs, and even death.

To combat antibiotic resistance, it's important to use antibiotics appropriately. This means only using antibiotics when they are necessary and prescribed by a healthcare provider. It's also important to follow the prescribed dosage and duration of treatment, even if you start feeling better before the medication is finished. This will help to ensure that all of the bacteria are killed and reduce the risk of antibiotic-resistant bacteria emerging.

In addition to using antibiotics appropriately, we can also prevent the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria by practicing good hygiene, such as washing our hands regularly and properly, covering our mouths when we cough or sneeze, and staying up to date with vaccinations. By taking these steps, we can help to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics for future generations.

Antibiotic resistance

The emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a serious healthcare problem that threatens our ability to treat infectious bacterial diseases effectively. It's important to understand that antibiotic resistance is a naturally occurring phenomenon that is accelerated by the overuse and misuse of antibiotics.

To address this problem, it's crucial that we use antibiotics appropriately and only when they are necessary. This means prescribing antibiotics only for bacterial infections, following the prescribed dosage and duration of treatment, and avoiding the use of antibiotics for viral infections like the common cold or flu.

In addition, we need to develop new antibiotics and alternative treatments to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This requires continued research and development, as well as a global effort to reduce the use of antibiotics in both human and animal healthcare.

Ultimately, preventing the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria requires a collaborative effort from healthcare providers, policymakers, patients, and the general public. By working together, we can help to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics and ensure that we can continue to treat infectious bacterial diseases effectively for generations to come.

Check out our article Natural Selection to learn more.

The rapid spread of antibiotic resistance among bacteria is due to their ability to exchange genetic material through both vertical and horizontal transmission. This means that a gene that confers resistance to an antibiotic can appear in one species and be passed to another species.

To address this issue, we need to reduce the opportunity for bacteria to develop resistance in the first place. This can be achieved by minimising the use of antibiotics and using narrow-spectrum antibiotics instead of broad-spectrum antibiotics. Narrow-spectrum antibiotics target specific types of bacteria, reducing the likelihood of resistance emerging.

Additionally, reducing antibiotic usage in farming can also help to prevent the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Antibiotics are often used in livestock farming to prevent infections, but this can lead to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can be transferred to humans through food.

It's also important to ensure that patients complete their antibiotic treatment regimen, as this reduces the opportunity for resistance to appear in surviving bacteria. When antibiotics are not taken as prescribed or are stopped early, bacteria can survive and develop resistance to the antibiotic.

In the future, it will be important to continue to develop new antibiotics and alternative treatments to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This requires a collaborative effort from healthcare providers, policymakers, patients, and the general public to ensure that antibiotics are used appropriately and that we can continue to treat infectious bacterial diseases effectively for generations to come.

Antibiotics - Key takeaways Antibiotics are antibacterial drugs extensively used to treat bacterial infectious diseases by exclusively targeting the bacterial cell and not its host organism. Antibiotics work by either killing the bacteria directly (bactericidal) or stopping its growth and ability to multiply (bacteriostatic). Antibiotics interfere with structures/processes such as bacterial cell wall synthesis, cell membrane proteins activity, bacterial DNA replication and protein synthesis. Antibiotics cannot treat viral infections because they can not affect viruses. Antibiotics are usually classified according to their chemical structure and can also be divided into narrow-spectrum and broad-spectrum antibiotics. Antibiotics are becoming increasingly ineffective at killing the bacteria that were once susceptible to them. This results in bacteria not inhibited by frequently used before antibiotics, also known as antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Antibiotics

What are antibiotics?

Antibiotics are antibacterial drugs extensively used to treat bacterial infectious diseases.

What do antibiotics contain?

Antibiotics are chemicals. This includes, but is not limited to, tetracyclines and cephalosporins.

What is the usefulness of antibiotics?

Antibiotics work to clear bacterial infections. They only target the bacterial cell and not its host infected organism. 

How long do antibiotics take to work?

Most antibiotics will start acting very quickly, but treatment relief will typically take one to three days. 

What are the types of antibiotics?

Antibiotics are divided according to their chemical structure. Generally, they’re also divided into narrow-spectrum and broad-spectrum antibiotics.

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