What Are Antibiotics?

Antibiotics are medications prescribed by doctors to treat diseases caused by bacteria. They can either kill bacteria or slow down their growth.

Antibiotics were discovered by Alexander Fleming back in 1928. Fleming managed to derive Penicillin from the fungus called Penicillium Notatum which revolutionized the modern medicine and consequently saved millions of lives because, until biologist’s discovery, people used to die from bacterial infections.

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Types of Antibiotics

According to the range of their effects, antibiotics can be divided into two groups:

  • Broad-spectrum—antibiotics from this category work against a wide range of bacteria
  • Narrow-spectrum—antibiotics from this group affect only a few types of bacteria

Antibiotics can also be divided according to the type of bacteria they treat:

  • Penicillin
  • Cephalosporin
  • Fluoroquinolones
  • Macrolides
  • Aminoglycosides
  • Tetracycline
  • Sulfonamides

Your doctor will prescribe you the medicine that kills the bacteria that is the most probable cause of the disease. In some cases, lab tests are required to determine the cause of the infection.

What is Antibiotics Resistance?

Antibiotics resistance occurs when bacteria mutate in order to adapt and survive the treatment. This mostly happens when a certain type of medicine is frequently used and when patients self-medicate.

Bacteria can mutate even when in contact with other bacteria which is already resistant. What makes this entire phenomenon dangerous is the fact that eventually there will be only a few antibiotics that will be able to cure even a common infection.

What we as patients can do is to not self-medicate, but to take antibiotics only and if prescribed by a physician.

How Do Antibiotics Work

Antibiotics are designed to separate our cells from bacteria. They recognize the difference between these two (human cells do not have a wall, and the membrane is also different). What antibiotics cannot do, however, is to distinguish harmful bacteria that caused the infection, and good bacteria that live in our stomach. Therefore, it is essential to take probiotic supplements while on antibiotics.

So, now when the medication has targeted the bacteria, it either kills them or stops them from reproducing. Penicillin, for, example, is a narrow-spectrum antibiotic that destroys the cell wall of the bacteria which consequently kills it. Some other antibiotics, such as macrolides, bind molecules that bacteria use to synthesize proteins. This stops the growth of the parasite, and our body is able to fight it.

What Are They Used For

Antibiotics are used for treatment of bacterial infections. That means if you have a common cold this type of medications will be completely useless because they do not work with viruses.

Some of the conditions treated with antibiotics include but are not limited to:

  • Urinary infections
  • Pneumonia
  • Whooping cough
  • Skin infections
  • Sinus infections
  • Teeth infections

However, if these conditions are caused by viruses, antibiotics will not work.


Antibiotics are medications prescribed by doctors in order to treat bacterial infection. They work either by killing the bacteria or preventing its growth. Antibiotics are mostly used to treat urinary, skin, teeth, ear, and sinus infections. BUT, if the cause of the infection is a virus, the medicine will be useless.


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