Antibiotics, also known as antimicrobial drugs and as antibacterial drugs, are drugs that fight infections caused by bacteria. Alexander Fleming discovered the first antibiotic, penicillin, in 1927. Although antibiotics have many beneficial effects, their widespread use and frequent use have created the new problem of antibiotic resistance.
Antibiotic resistance is the ability of bacteria or other microbes to resist the effects of an antibiotic drug. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in some way that reduces or eliminates the effectiveness of drugs, chemicals, or other agents designed to cure or prevent infections. The bacteria survive and continue to multiply causing more harm.
Antibiotic resistance can cause significant danger and suffering for children and adults who have common infections that were once easily treatable with antibiotics. Microbes can develop resistance to specific medicines. A common misconception is that a person's body becomes resistant to specific drugs. However, it is microbes, not people, that become resistant to the drugs.
If a microbe is resistant to many drugs, treating the infections it causes can become difficult. Someone with an infection that is resistant to a certain medicine can pass that resistant infection to another person. In this way, a hard-to-treat illness can be spread from person to person.
Those who receive antibiotics on several occasions are more likely to have bacteria that are resistant to that antibiotic. In this case, the doctor would probably wait for culture results to identify the bacteria and prescribe the appropriate antibiotic therapy.
While antibiotics should be used to treat bacterial infections, they are not effective against viral infections like the common cold, the flu, most sore throats, and most coughs. Widespread use of antibiotics promotes the spread of antibiotic resistance.
Therefore, you should only take antibiotics when your doctor determines that you really need them. Remember antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses. Repeated and improper uses of antibiotics are primary causes of the increase in drug-resistant bacteria.
Tens of millions of antibiotics prescribed in doctors' offices each year are for viral infections, which cannot effectively be treated with antibiotics. Doctors cite diagnostic uncertainty, time pressure on physicians, and patient demand as the primary reasons why antibiotics are over-prescribed.
Here are some useful tips to remember:
1- Talk with your healthcare provider about antibiotic resistance.
2- Taking antibiotics when they are not needed increases your risk of getting an infection later that resists antibiotic treatment.
3- If you use antibacterial soaps for everyday cleaning, you could unwittingly be creating super-germs that are resistant to antibiotics.
4- Do not take an antibiotic for a viral infection like a cold or the flu. Taking antibiotics when you have a virus may do more harm than good.
5- Do not take antibiotics prescribed for someone else. Taking the wrong medicine may delay correct treatment and allow bacteria to multiply.
6- Do not save some of your antibiotic for the next time you get sick. Discard any leftover medication once you have completed your prescribed course of treatment.
7- If your healthcare provider determines that you do not have a bacterial infection, ask about ways to help relieve your symptoms. Do not pressure your provider to prescribe an antibiotic.
8- Take an antibiotic exactly as the healthcare provider tells you. Do not skip doses. Complete the prescribed course of treatment even if you are feeling better. If treatment stops too soon, some bacteria may survive and re-infect you.