What antibiotics are
Antibiotics are special drugs for treating infections caused by the spread and multiplication of bacteria. It's very important to remember that antibiotics are not designed for treating viral infections such as flu or cold, as those are caused by viruses unresponsive to the effects of antibiotics. Most antibiotics produced today, under a wide range of brand names, are semi-synthetic modifications of natural compounds discovered by scientists. Other antibiotics are isolated from living organisms, while others are produced by chemical synthesis. Antibiotics gave the humankind a chance to survive and cure infections that otherwise could have killed millions. The discovery of antibiotics is among the most significant achievements of modern science.
Groups of antibiotics and how they work
Different groups of antibiotics work in their own ways. Some of them kill bacteria present in the body (by blocking their ability to turn glucose into energy required for survival or impairing their ability to build a cell wall to protect themselves against the hostile environment), while others slow their growth and keep them from reproducing at the same speed. There are well over a hundred different antibiotics known at the moment, most of them fitting into a few groups or classes. There are groups such as macrolides, fluoroquinolones, penicillins, cephalosporins, aminoglycosides, tetracyclines and sulfonamides, each group prescribed for a certain type of bacteria present in the body. For the antibiotic prescribed to work as intended, it's important to take it for the entire period recommended, even if the symptoms improve soon after the treatment has started.
Taking antibiotics to benefit the most
Antibiotics should only be taken when clearly needed. Taking an antibiotic for a condition that was not caused by the presence of bacteria sensitive to the effects of that antibiotic will make it more difficult for you to treat bacterial infections in future when you do get them. Also, taking antibiotics at the first sign of a bacterial infection can make the bacteria less sensitive to its effects, which will cause serious problems in future when trying to cure an infection that will not be responding to the antibiotic you are taking. Often, lab tests are required for the doctor to establish which type of antibiotic the patient needs for the infection to be cured. It's important to take the right type of antibiotic for the specific type of bacteria causing the infection.
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