Also referred to as anti-bacterial medicines, basically antibiotics are a variety of anti-microbial drugs that are used for preventing as well as treating infections caused by bacteria. These medications may inhibit bacterial growth or eliminate the pathogens. Moreover, some antibiotics also have anti-protozoal effects. However, antibiotics do not work against viruses, for instance those responsible for influenza or common colds. In fact, antibiotics may prove to be detrimental if they are not taken in the right manner.

Renowned Scottish biologist and pharmacist Alexander Fleming was the first to identify penicillin in 1928. In fact, penicillin is said to be the first chemical compound possessing antibiotic properties. Fleming identified penicillin quite accidentally while he was working on a disease-causing bacteria culture. He suddenly observed spores of small green mold in one of the culture plates he was working on. The Scottish biologist noticed that the growth of the disease-causing bacteria was either inhibited by the presence of the mold, or it killed the microbe.

It is worth mentioning here that in the 20th century, antibiotics virtually transformed the entire medicine world. Together with vaccination, antibiotics have almost eradicated several diseases like tuberculosis from the developed world. Since antibiotics are very effective and also easily accessible, people began to overuse these drugs, especially in raising livestock, which, to a great extent, has led various bacterial species to develop resistance against many antibiotics. Consequently, there have been extensive problems with antibiotic and antimicrobial resistances. The problem has reached such proportions that the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified anti-microbial resistance as a grave threat that will no longer be possible to predict in the coming days. According to the global health body, currently people all over the world are experiencing antibiotic and anti-microbial resistance. Moreover, this problem may possibly have an adverse effect on any individual, irrespective of their age or the country of their residence.

Historically, the discovery of arsphenamine was responsible for the era that witnessed antibacterial chemotherapy. In 1907, Paul Ehrlich and Alfred Bertheim synthesized this chemical compound for the first time and employed it for treating syphilis. German bacteriologist and pathologist Gerhard Domagk discovered the first ever systemically active anti-bacterial medicine called prontosil in 1933. He received the Nobel Prize for this discover in 1939. In fact, the entire antibiotic classes that are currently used by us were discovered before the mid-1980s.

There are various types of antibiotics and they are employed for treating several different bacterial infections. Antibiotics work by inhibiting bacterial growth, injuring or killing bacteria. It is worth mentioning here that bacteria are single celled simple micro organisms. Billions of these micro organisms are present everywhere - all around us. They can be found in the soil, on furniture as well as counter-tops, on plants and all animals. In fact, bacteria are not only natural, but also necessary in our life. Bacteria raid our body and cause infections and diseases when they can access the more susceptible parts of the body and, soon multiply very rapidly. Bacteria possess the ability to inflict various parts of our body, including, ears, eyes, airways, sinuses, colon, stomach, throat, lungs, skin, bones and the genitals.

Antibiotic resistance

Antibiotics are very valuable drugs and are used for treating numerous conditions. However, it is unfortunate that these days, bacteria have developed resistance to several antibiotics. In fact, it is not possible to kill or destroy antibiotic-resistant bacteria using common antibiotics. When the same bacteria come in contact with the same type of antibiotics time and again, these germs have the ability to change and the drugs have no effect on them whatsoever.

There are several ways by which bacteria may develop resistance to antibiotics. For instance, bacteria have an internal means whereby they can modify their structure in such a way that a particular antibiotic will no longer be effective against them. Bacteria may develop means to render antibiotics inactive or deactivate the drug. In addition, bacteria also possess the ability to transfer the genes coding between them with a view to become antibiotic resistance, thereby even bacteria which have never been exposed to any particular antibiotic, attain antibiotic resistance. What is worse is that antibiotic resistance can turn exacerbate in case antibiotics are employed for treating health problems wherein antibiotics are not effective at all. For instance, antibiotics are basically anti-bacterial drugs and they have no effect whatsoever when used to treat viral infections. Antibiotic resistance can worsen even further when these drugs are widely used in the form of prophylaxis instead of a means of treatment.

Precisely speaking, antibiotic resistance of bacteria become a serious as well as growing problem, as it is becoming all the more difficult to treat a number of contagious diseases. While it is possible to neutralize a section of antibiotic resistant bacteria by using more potent medications, there are a number of infections that still remain difficult to treat even when physicians use any experimental or new drugs to neutralize antibiotic resistant germs.

Side effects

Similar to any other medication, even antibiotics cause a number of potential adverse effects. In fact, the antibiotics that you may be using to cure your throat infection or skin affliction may have detrimental effects.

Stomach disorders like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are the most widespread side effects of using antibiotics, almost all of them. Of every 100 persons using antibiotics about one to ten may suffer from these side effects. In other words, roughly 10 percent people who use antibiotics endure the adverse effects of these drugs.

Usually, these side effects are attributed to the potential of antibiotics to cause inflammation in the lining of the gut (intestine) and, thereby, unsettle the balance of "beneficial" (harmless) and "bad" bacteria (which have the potential to cause diseases) inside the gut. As a result of these adverse effects of antibiotics, it is likely that the ability of your intestine to take up nutrients and water from food may decrease, thereby causing diarrhea.

The yeast Candida (scientific name Candida albicans) is responsible for an infection known as thrush. Candia thrives in our body and is generally harmless. A robust immune system as well as various other bacteria present in our body help to keep the growth of Candida in check. In some cases, women who take antibiotics may experience a disturbance in the usual balance of bacteria in their vagina and this helps Candida to grow, thereby resulting in thrush. Thrush produces a number of symptoms such as pain, itchiness and even a vaginal discharge.

On some occasions, thrush can also adversely affect various other parts of our body, including the mouth and skin. When it affects the mouth, the sufferer may experience visible white patches.

Then again, use of a number of antibiotics may also result in allergic and/ or hypersensitive reactions like hives, breathing difficulties and fever. Hives is a condition wherein large, reddish elevated areas appear on the skin. Although very rare, use of antibiotics may also result in anaphylaxis, a condition wherein one experiences an immediate or very severe reaction to an antibiotic.

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