General Information About Antibiotics
Antibiotic is an agent that weakens or destroys bacteria; antibiotics are medically used to treat various types of bacterial infections. The various types of antibiotics work either by preventing an infection from growing or by destroying an existing infection. Antibiotics are produced either from a mold or a fungus or are produced synthetically.
Question: What are the various types of antibiotics and what do they do?
Common forms of antibiotics include aminoglycosides, macrolides, penicillins, tetracyclines, and cephalosporins.
Aminoglycosides work by interfering with the protein formation of bacteria. Aminoglycosides include gentamicin, amikacin, and tobramycin. Side effects can include damage to the nerves of hearing and balance, as well as kidney injury.
Macrolide antibiotics interfere with the protein formation of bacteria during multiplication. Erythromycin is a macrolide. Side effects include gastrointestinal discomfort.
Penicillins (discovered by Sir Alexannder Fleming in 1928) work by damaging the cell walls of the invading bacteria as the bacteria reproduce. Penicillin G and V are widely used for streptococcal and other bacterial infections. Broad-spectrum penicillins, such as ampicillin and amoxicillin, are used on a variety of infections caused by gram-negative organisms. Hypersensitivity reactions, for example, a fever or a rash, are fairly common side effects of penicillin use. Severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) rarely occur, but can be life-threatening.
Tetracyclines, which are active against a wide range of bacteria and other organisms, are thought to prevent production of proteins in the invading bacterial cells. The tetracyclines include tetracycline and doxycycline. Side effects of therapy may include gastrointestinal irritation, sensitivity of the skin to sunlight, and liver and kidney injury. This group of drugs should not be administered during the last four to five months of pregnancy, nor should it be given to children before the age of eight years. Permanent discoloration of developing teeth may result.
Cephalosporins are relatively new antibiotics active against a wide range of bacteria. Like penicillins, they interfere with bacterial cell wall formation. A frequently used cephalosporin is cefaclor. Side effects include rashes and fever. Sometimes, persons allergic to penicillins will also be allergic to cephalosporins.
Question: Should antibiotics be used to fight all infections?
Antibiotics can safely save lives when prescribed appropriately. However, indiscriminate use of these drugs can have serious consequences and can counteract their usefulness. A number of bacterial strains that cause disease have become resistant to the antibiotics that were once able to control or destroy them.
Although literally thousands of antibiotic substances have been found in nature or have been produced chemically, relatively few have been proven safe and effective. Certain antibiotics can become toxic when outdated.
Persons who know they are allergic to an antibiotic drug should tell the physician before being treated for any condition. An allergic reaction could lead to anaphylactic shock, which can be life-threatening. Even a lesser reaction can be quite serious and should be monitored by a physician.
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