What Is Unnecessary Antibiotic Use
Unnecessary antibiotic use happens when a person is prescribed antibiotics when theyre not needed, such as for colds and flu.
Unnecessary use also happens when a person is prescribed antibiotics for infections that are sometimes caused by bacteria that do not always need antibiotics, like many sinus infections and some ear infections.
Antibiotics arent always the answer when youre sick. Its important to use antibiotics only when they are needed to protect yourself from harms caused by unnecessary antibiotic use and combat antibiotic resistance.
How Does Antibiotic Resistance Occur
According to the CDC, each year, at least 2.8 million people in the U.S. become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 35,000 people die as a direct result of these infections.
In general terms, antibiotic resistance can occur when bacteria learn to fight off the antibiotic.
- Antibiotics work by interfering with the bacterial cell wall and prevent bacteria from making copies of themselves. However, many of these drugs have been widely used for a long period of time, overused, or used inappropriately.
- Antibiotics are designed to kill specific bacteria. But over time bacteria learn to adapt to the medicine, making the drug less effective.
- Bacteria fights back against a drug in many ways:
- by producing enzymes that can inactivate the antibiotic
Nucleic Acids Synthesis Inhibitors
As is the case with protein synthesis, there are differences in polymerases and other factors involved in the synthesis of nucleic acids between human beings and bacteria.
Here, then, antibiotics used to treat infections specifically target the factors involved in this synthesis in bacteria which allows them to only destroy or stop the growth of bacterial cells without causing harm to the host cells.
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What Is An Antibiotic
Antibiotics kill bacteria, not archaea, fungi, or protists.
The discovery of the antibiotic penicillin in the 1920s made a big impact on human history. Not only did it lead to a cure for bacterial infections that were once deadly, but it also led a big interest in finding new antibiotics. Today many different types of antibiotics are available, and they fight infection in several ways.
Can I Treat A Cold With An Antibiotic
Using an antibiotic for a virus, like a cold or the flu:
- will not cure the virus
- wont help you feel better
- will not prevent others from catching your virus
- will be a waste of your money.
Many bacterial infections do require an antibiotic however, the type of antibiotic will vary based on the type of infection. An antibiotic either prevents bacterial growth or kills bacteria outright .
It is very important not to share your antibiotics with someone else. For example, amoxicillin can be used to treat a bacterial strep throat but will not work for some common pneumonias or bladder infections.
While you may mean well if you share your medicine, the bacteria causing someone else’s infection may not be susceptible to your prescribed antibiotic. In turn, those bacteria may not die and that person’s infection can worsen. Plus, the person you share your antibiotic with may experience side effects or serious allergic reactions from your drug. Overall, sharing any medicine with someone else is risky business.
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Can I Stop Taking Antibiotics Early
It’s important to complete the full course of antibiotics, even if you begin to feel better beforehand.
Because if you discontinue the treatment early you may not eliminate enough bacteria, and the condition could reoccur, as surviving bacteria multiply. Doing so also contributes to the growing issue of antibiotic resistance.
However, in the continued battle against antibiotic-resistant superbugs, researchers have started to study the dosage amount. A growing body of evidence suggests that shorter regimes of antibiotic treatment may be just as effective as the longer courses traditionally prescribed.
More research is needed, so you should still complete the full course of antibiotics you’re prescribed for an infection.
What Does Antibiotic Resistance Mean For Me
Using antibiotics when you don’t need them may mean that they won’t work for you when you do need them in the future.
If you have an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection:
- you will have the infection for longer
- you may be more likely to have complications of the infection
- you could remain infectious for longer, and pass your infection to other people, which increases the problem.
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Do I Need To Finish My Antibiotic
The bottom line: take your antibiotic for as long as your doctor tells you.
Historically you may have been told to always finish all of your prescribed antibiotic, even if you feel 100% better. The thinking was that antibiotic resistance could occur if you stop short of your full course of therapy.
But some experts are now advising that long courses are not always needed and could actually be fueling the antibiotic resistance trend. The American College of Physicians published a guideline in 2021 entitled “ACP Best Practice Advice: Shorter course of antibiotics may be appropriate for some common infections”.
- Healthcare providers and patients should be aware that using antibiotics for shorter periods may have the same or better results compared with longer periods and can also help lower antibiotic resistance.
- The treatment advice from ACP centers on uncomplicated and common infections like bronchitis / COPD, pneumonia, urinary tract infection , and skin infections in otherwise healthy patients.
- Length of treatment often depends on the antibiotic being used or the bacteria being treated, too. For example, for uncomplicated UTI in women, fosfomycin is a medicine that can be given in one single dose, but trimethoprimsulfamethoxazole is given as a 3-day course.
Antibiotic Targets In Bacteria
There are several different classes of antibiotics. These can have completely different bacterial targets or act on the same target but at a different place. In principal, there are three main antibiotic targets in bacteria:
These targets are absent or different in the cells of humans and other mammals, which means that the antibiotics usually do not harm our cells but are specific for bacteria. However, antibiotics can in some cases have unpleasant side effects. Read more under Why should I care? Risks for the individual and society.
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Using Antibiotics Responsibly: Our Commitment
At Atrium Health, we spread antibiotic education to our doctors through our Antimicrobial Support Network and patient care collaborative, which both work with doctors to make sure patients are prescribed the most appropriate antibiotics. The ultimate goal is to improve your care and safety.
About Atrium Health
How Do Antibiotics Produced By Bacteria Help Others
Like Streptomyces, lots of bacteria use antibiotics to fight off predators. This assures their own survival and that of their species.
Yet, more and more research finds that bacteria not only kill other species with antibiotics so they can survive. The killing also benefits their hosts.
For example, the bacterium lives on frogs where it produces the antibiotic violacein. This antibiotic kills fungi so that the bacterium protects the frog from deadly fungal infections.
Also, a bacterium that lives in our noses is the harmless Staphylococcus lugdunensis. This bacterium produces the antibiotic lugdunin. That inhibits the harmful Staphylococcus aureusfrom settling down in our noses. Now, scientists look into how we could use the harmless Staphylococcus lugdunensis to protect us from infections.
Another example of microbes that produce antibiotics to help others is the three-member association of ants, Streptomyces and a fungus. Several species of ants grow fungi for food. They feed their fungi with fresh plants and let them grow in special underground gardens.
To not contaminate these fungal gardens, ants carry symbiotic Streptomyces that produce antibiotics. Like this, the antibiotics kill other microbes and keep the fungal gardens free of harmful intruders. As a thank you, the ants feed the Streptomyces and give them a place to live.
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What Antibiotics Can And Cant Do
Most bacteria that live in your body are harmless. Some are even helpful. Still, bacteria can infect almost any organ. Fortunately, antibiotics can usually help.
These are the types of infections that can be treated with antibiotics:
- Some ear and sinus infections
- Dental infections
- Clostridioides difficile
Only bacterial infections can be killed with antibiotics. The common cold, flu, most coughs, some bronchitis infections, most sore throats, and the stomach flu are all caused by viruses. Antibiotics wonât work to treat them. Your doctor will tell you either to wait these illnesses out or prescribe antiviral drugs to help you get rid of them.
Itâs not always obvious whether an infection is viral or bacterial. Sometimes your doctor will do tests before deciding which treatment you need.
Some antibiotics work on many different kinds of bacteria. Theyâre called âbroad-spectrum.â Others target specific bacteria only. Theyâre known as ânarrow-spectrum.â
Cell Wall Synthesis Inhibitors
Antibiotics that interrupt the synthesis of the cell wall of bacteria act by disrupting synthesis of the peptidoglycan. In doing so, they cause the cell to be susceptible to mechanisms like osmotic lysis thus contributing to cell destruction.
For this reason, these inhibitors are classified as bactericidal antibiotics. Penicillins, which are some of the most common antibiotics, are examples of cell wall synthesis inhibitors.
Unlike most eukaryotic cells , bacteria have a cell wall that surrounds the cell membrane. This cell wall consists of alternating chains of linked N-acetylglucosamine and N-acetylmuramic acid with short peptide chains cross-linking them.
While some bacteria have several peptidoglycan layers while others only have a single peptidoglycan layer, they are all characterized by the presence of a cell wall which serves a number of functions including maintaining the cell shape, protecting the cell, providing support, as well as controlling expansion of the cell, etc.
Here, synthesis of the peptidoglycan is mediated by a number of factors including the transpeptidase enzyme. These enzymes are also capable of binding penicillin and are therefore also referred to as penicillin-binding proteins.
The B-lactam ring of penicillin binds to the active site of the enzyme and reacts with the serine residue to the protein which in turn inhibits its action – action of the transpeptidase enzyme.
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How Can We Treat A Cold Or Flu Virus
You might have heard the phrase that a virus has to run its course. This means waiting for your bodys immune system to fight off the viral infection by itself by activating an immune response. If you have a cold or the flu, during this time you might experience symptoms like:
- a runny or blocked nose
- sore throat
How Do I Use Antibiotics Correctly
When you take antibiotics, it is important that you take them responsibly:
- Always follow the directions carefully. Finish your medicine even if you feel better. If you stop taking them too soon, some bacteria may survive and re-infect you.
- Don’t save your antibiotics for later
- Don’t share your antibiotic with others
- Don’t take antibiotics prescribed for someone else. This may delay the best treatment for you, make you even sicker, or cause side effects.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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What Are Antibiotics And How Do They Work
Any substance that inhibits the growth and replication of a bacterium or kills it outright can be called an antibiotic. Antibiotics are a type of antimicrobial designed to target bacterial infections within the body. This makes antibiotics subtly different from the other main kinds of antimicrobials widely used today:
- Antiseptics are used to sterilise surfaces of living tissue when the risk of infection is high, such as during surgery.
- Disinfectants are non-selective antimicrobials, killing a wide range of micro-organisms including bacteria. They are used on non-living surfaces, for example in hospitals.
Of course, bacteria are not the only microbes that can be harmful to us. Fungi and viruses can also be a danger to humans, and they are targeted by antifungals and antivirals, respectively. Only substances that target bacteria are called antibiotics, while the name antimicrobial is an umbrella term for anything that inhibits or kills microbial cells including antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals and chemicals such as antiseptics.
Most antibiotics used today are produced in laboratories, but they are often based on compounds scientists have found in nature. Some microbes, for example, produce substances specifically to kill other nearby bacteria in order to gain an advantage when competing for food, water or other limited resources. However, some microbes only produce antibiotics in the laboratory
How Are Viruses Different From Bacteria
Viruses are structurally different from bacteria. Viruses live and replicate inside of a human cell and they cannot live outside of this environment. Viruses insert their genetic material into a human cells DNA in order to reproduce.
Antibiotics cannot kill viruses because bacteria and viruses have different mechanisms and machinery to survive and replicate. The antibiotic has no target to attack in a virus.
However, antiviral medications and vaccines are specific for viruses. Vaccines stimulate your own immune system to produce antibodies, which then can recognize the virus to inactivate it before it can cause disease. The best way to help prevent the flu, COVID, shingles and chickenpox is with a vaccine.
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Aminoglycoside Uptake And Cell Death
Binding of aminoglycosides to the ribosome does not bring translation to an immediate standstill. Rather, as noted above, this class of drugs promotes protein mistranslation through the incorporation of inappropriate amino acids into elongating peptide strands 96, a phenotype specific for aminoglycosides and one which contributes to cell killing .
Respiration also plays a crucial role in aminoglycoside uptake and lethality 103. Following the initial step of drug molecule adsorption through electrostatic interaction, changes in membrane potential provide for cellular access by aminoglycosides. Respiration-dependent uptake relies on the activity of membrane-associated cytochromes and maintenance of the electrochemical potential through the quinone pool, . Accordingly, under anaerobic conditions, aminoglycoside uptake is severely limited in both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, , although there is evidence that aminoglycoside uptake can occur under certain anaerobic conditions via a mechanism that is sensitive to nitrate levels. In E. coli and P. aeruginosa, aminoglycoside uptake can take place when nitrate is used as an electron acceptor in place of oxygen, and anaerobic bacteria that have quinones and cytochromes can take up aminoglycosides if significant anaerobic electron transport occurs 108.
What Do Antibiotics Treat
Antibiotics only treat certain bacterial infections, such as strep throat, urinary tract infections, and E. coli.
You may not need to take antibiotics for some bacterial infections. For example, you might not need them for many sinus infections or some ear infections. Taking antibiotics when they’re not needed won’t help you, and they can have side effects. Your health care provider can decide the best treatment for you when you’re sick. Don’t ask your provider to prescribe an antibiotic for you.
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When Antibiotics Are Needed
Antibiotics may be used to treat bacterial infections that:
- are unlikely to clear up without antibiotics
- could infect others
- could take too long to clear without treatment
- carry a risk of more serious complications
People at a high risk of infection may also be given antibiotics as a precaution, known as antibiotic prophylaxis.
Read more about when antibiotics are used and why they are not routinely used to treat infections.
How To Take Antibiotics
Take antibiotics as directed on the packet or the patient information leaflet that comes with the medicine, or as instructed by your GP or pharmacist.
Antibiotics can come as:
- tablets, capsules or a liquid that you drink these can be used to treat most types of mild to moderate infections in the body
- creams, lotions, sprays and drops these are often used to treat skin infections and eye or ear infections
- injections these can be given as an injection or through a drip directly into the blood or muscle, and are used for more serious infections
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What Is The Gut Microbiome
Your gut is home to trillions of microorganisms and is a little ecosystem on its own. There are 400 different species of bacteria that thrive in the human gut that are responsible for a number of critical body functions.
These microbes play crucial roles in digestion, metabolism, immunity, and mental health. 70% of your immunity is located in the gut lining and 90% neurotransmitters are produced in the gut.
The gut is often nicknamed the second brain for these reasons because neurotransmitters are chemical messengers responsible for regulating mood.
It is crucial to maintain the proper balance of bacteria and other microbes in the gut for your overall health and its obvious that Dewey from the movie Unstoppable does not care too much about his health which is too bad since his bad health prevented him from be able to run about five mph for about five seconds which would have prevented that train from killing so many people.
Being out of shape in a job like that is just not wise.
Antibiotics Harm Friendly Bacteria
When you take an antibiotic, it enters your bloodstream and travels through your body, killing bacteria but not human cells. There are few differences, however, between harmful and friendly bacteria. Antibiotics kill not only the bad bacteria making you sick, but also your resident friendly bacteria.
Friendly bacteria help keep you healthy in many ways, so when antibiotics kill friendly bacteria, your health can suffer because you lose these benefits. Additionally, losing friendly bacteria can give other types of bacteria room to multiply, leading to opportunistic infection. Sometimes opportunistic infection happens when bacteria from the environment get into your body and overrun friendly bacteria damaged by an antibiotic. Other times opportunistic infection begins when antibiotics disturb the balance of your resident microbes, and normally friendly bacteria multiply too quickly and become harmful.
One common cause of opportunistic infection is clostridium difficile . Like many opportunistic bacteria, C. difficile live in the environment and do not normally harm healthy people. However, certain groups of people, like older adults who have been on antibiotics for a long time, are vulnerable. When antibiotics kill too many friendly bacteria in the intestine, C. difficile multiplies and produces toxins that make the person sick with symptoms like fever, nausea, diarrhea, and inflammation.
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