Antibiotics are the real heroes: what you need to know about them

Victor LitvinenkoNews
How antibiotics work. Source:

Antibiotics are a class of chemical compounds that have the ability to kill or slow the growth of bacteria. They are powerful tools in the fight against bacterial infections in humans, animals, and plants. Antibiotics can be naturally occurring (produced by microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi) or synthetic (entirely chemically synthesized).

The beginning of the antibiotic era

The discovery of antibiotics is associated with the work of different researchers in different periods of history. One of the first antibiotics discovered was a drug called penicillin, which became the first widely used antibiotic. Penicillin was discovered by the English bacteriologist Alexander Fleming in 1928 by accident. During his research, he noticed that the mold Penicillium notatum was able to destroy bacteria in its environment. This accidental discovery was the starting point for the development of the antibiotic. In 1940, a team of researchers led by Ernst Borg and Howard Florey began large-scale production of penicillin, which was a turning point in medical practice. Over time, other antibiotics were discovered, such as streptomycin, chloramphenicol, tetracyclines, and many others. These discoveries significantly improved the ability to fight bacterial infections and saved hundreds of millions of lives.

How antibiotics work

Antibiotics can affect bacteria in different ways. The main mechanisms of antibiotic action:

Inhibition of cell wall synthesis

  • Some antibiotics, such as penicillins and cephalosporins, interfere with the synthesis of the bacterial cell wall. The cell wall is essential for maintaining the shape and integrity of the bacterial cell. Without a normal wall, bacteria lose their defense and can be destroyed.

Effect on proteins

  • Other antibiotics can affect bacterial proteins by blocking their synthesis or changing their function. Examples include aminoglycoside antibiotics, such as streptomycin, which interfere with protein synthesis in bacterial cells.

Inhibition of nuclear acid synthesis

  • Certain antibiotics, such as quinolones and sulfonamides, can interfere with the synthesis of nuclear acids such as DNA and RNA, which leads to impaired bacterial replication and transcription.

Disruption of the bacterial cell membrane

  • For example, polymyxins can affect the bacterial cell membrane, leading to its destruction and release of internal components.

Inhibition of metabolic pathways

  • They can interfere with metabolic pathways necessary for bacterial survival. For example, sulfonamides can inhibit the synthesis of folic acid, which is important for the synthesis of nucleic acids.

However, in a world where antibiotics have become available to everyone, it's time to think about the other side of the coin, where intensive and widespread use of antibiotics leads to the development of antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic resistance (or resistance to antibiotics) is the ability of bacteria or other microorganisms to resist the effects of antibiotics commonly used to treat infections. This poses a serious problem in medical practice as it makes it more difficult to treat infections and increases the risk of spreading infections.

The main causes of antibiotic resistance include:

  1. Improper or excessive use of antibiotics, including self-medication, incomplete courses of treatment, or the use of over-the-counter antibiotics, can contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance.
  2. Poor hygiene practices, poor sanitation, and insufficient control of infections can also contribute to the spread of resistant strains of bacteria.
  3. The use of antibiotics in livestock and agriculture to stimulate animal growth or prevent disease can also contribute to the development of resistance.
  4. The transfer of resistant strains of bacteria from one country to another can exacerbate the problem of antibiotic resistance on a global scale.
  5. Relatively few new antibiotics are being developed, which reduces the ability to treat resistant infections.

Antibiotic resistance poses serious problems for the treatment of infections as conventional methods become ineffective. Prevention of antibiotic resistance includes the judicious use of antibiotics, adherence to prescriptions, completion of the full course of treatment, and adherence to infection control measures. Research is also important to develop new antibiotics and approaches to treating infections.

Important! Antibiotics must be prescribed by a doctor. And the best option is if the prescription is based on the results of bacterial culture with the determination of antibiotic sensitivity.

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