Antibiotics, also known as antibacterials, are medications that destroy or slow down the growth of bacteria. They include a range of powerful drugs and are used to treat diseases caused by bacteria. Infections caused by viruses, such as colds, flu, most coughs, and sore throats cannot be treated with antibiotics.
In this article, we will explain what antibiotics are, how they work, any potential side effects, and discuss antibiotic resistance.
Fast facts on antibiotics
Here are some key points about antibiotics
- Alexander Fleming discovered the first natural antibiotic – penicillin – in 1928
- Antibiotics cannot fight viral infections
- Fleming predicted the rise of antibiotic resistance we see today
- Antibiotics either kill bacteria or slow its growth
- Side effects can include diarrhea and feeling sick
What are antibiotics?
Antibiotics are powerful medicines that fight certain infections and can save lives when used properly. Antibiotics either stop bacteria from reproducing or destroy them. Before bacteria can multiply and cause symptoms, the body’s immune system can usually kill them. Our white blood cells attack harmful bacteria and, 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; this is where antibiotics are useful.
The first antibiotic was penicillin. Such penicillin-related antibiotics as ampicillin, amoxicillin, and benzylpenicillin are widely used today to treat a variety of infections – these antibiotics have been around for a long time. There are several types of modern antibiotics, and they are only available with a doctor’s prescription in most countries.
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