The term “antibiotics” is taken from a Greek word which means anti-life. The name was suggested by a microbiologist named Dr.Selman A. Waksman in 1942. The antibiotics are used to slow down or kill the growth of bacteria. The bacteria are one-celled organisms that are found in unlimited quantities around us. Although, they are a natural part of our life, they can cause diseases and actions when they gain access to the exposed parts of our body and rapidly increase to other areas. The bacteria can affect any part of our body – ears, nose, eyes, lungs, skin, stomach, colon, bones, and the genitals area.
Antibiotics are one of the most prescribed medications in modern medicine. Since the 1930s, they have been used for the treatment of bacterial infections in humans as well as plants and animals. The antibiotics are not used for the treatment of viral conditions such as cold, flu or other common ailments but only to treat bacterial infections, acne, sexually transmitted diseases, etc. doctors and medical experts advise against using antibiotics for other uses except its specific purposes. They should also be taken at prescribed times and for the specified duration.
There are over 100 antibiotics being used in the medical field but having a list of some common ones and their uses can help you better understand the medicines your doctor prescribe.
• Penicillin: usually found by the names Amoxil, Novamox, Penicillin –E, etc are prescribed to treat a variety of infections such as those related to skin, ear, dental, respiratory tract, urinary tract, and gonorrhea. Although, only 10 percent of the people report being allergic to the antibiotic, some common side-effects includes diarrhea, nausea, hypersensitivity, seizure, etc.
• Aminoglycosides: The antibiotic is prescribed to treat gram-negative bacteria such as those Pseudomonas aeruginosin, pneumonia, tuberculosis, typhoid and other illness. The antibiotic cannot be taken orally but rather should be injected intravenously. Some common side effects while taking aminoglycosides are hearing loss, kidney damage, vertigo and risk to the fetus (if taken during pregnancy). Generic names for the antibiotics include Neomycin, Gentamicin, and Amikacin.
• Sulfonamides: The function of Sulfonamides or sulfa drug is similar to that of Penicillin. They are used effectively to treat kidney infections, urinary tract infections, and topically for burns. However adverse effects of the antibiotic include nausea, allergy, and kidney failure, crystals in urine, sensitivity to sunlight and decrease in white blood cells. The patients that are taking Sulfonamides are advised to drink plenty of water during the treatment period. The common names of the antibiotics are sulfacetamide and sulfadiazine.
• Cephalosporin: The antibiotic is used to treat gram-negative infections as well as strep throat, pneumonia, staph infections, bronchitis, tonsils, and skin infections. The side effects of cephalosporin include an upset digestive system, nausea, and allergic reactions. Some common generic names for the antibiotic are Cefaclor, Cefixime, and Cefpodoxime.
• Macrolides: The most frequently prescribed antibiotic sold under the name of azithromycin, erythromycin, and clarithromycin. The antibiotic is used to treat infections related to the upper respiratory tract, lower respiratory tract, soft tissue, genitals, mouth, and digestive. Many patients have reported nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hearing loss, and even jaundice when taking macrolides at higher doses.
• Fluoroquinolones: The antibiotic treats urinary tract infections, pneumonia, diarrhea, gonorrhea, skin infections, and sinusitis. While using the antibiotic, patients suffer from mild digestive disorders and sometimes serious and permanent damage to the nerves. The medicine should not be taken by children and pregnant women. Some common names for the medicine are ciprofloxacin, moxifloxacin, and ofloxacin.
• Tetracycline: Commonly sold as Minocycline and Declomycin – the antibiotic tetracycline is used to treat Lyme diseases, syphilis, malaria, mycoplasmal infections, and acne. Adverse effects of the medicine include sensitivity to sunlight, digestion troubles, teeth staining, and toxicity to the fetus (if taken during pregnancy). The antibiotic is strictly prohibited for children under 8 year’s old and pregnant women.
Antibiotics for Infections
Antibiotics are sometimes prescribed for prevention rather than treating a condition. These types of antibiotics are known as antibiotic prophylaxis. They are recommended for:
• Post surgeries especially eye surgery
• After joint replacement surgeries
• Breast implants
• After removal of appendix and gallbladder
• Animal and human bites
People who should avoid Antibiotics
Antibiotics are not recommended for some people especially:
• Those who are over the age of 75
• Those who are at risk of heart failure
• Pregnant women
• Diabetic patients who are taking insulin to regulate their sugar level
• Those with weak immune system
Antibiotics interaction with other medications
Sometimes antibiotics can interact with other medicines. That is why it is important to read the enclosed leaflet that comes with all medicines as well as inform your doctor about any medications that you are already taking before consuming any antibiotic. For example, some antibiotics such as rifampicin when taken with oral contraceptives reduce the effectiveness of the latter. If you are taking rifampicin or similar antibiotics, then it is recommended that you use other forms of protection such as condoms.
The antibiotic penicillin you should not be taken with methotrexate which is used for cancer treatment. The combination of both the medicines can cause serious and even life-threatening side effects.
Blood-thinning medicines should not be taken with cephalosporin. If your condition requires you to take the antibiotic, then doctors usually recommend stopping the blood-thinning medicines for a temporary period. Macrolides are also prohibited to be used with antihistamines and the medicines that treat high cholesterol.
How should antibiotics be taken?
Antibiotics should always be taken with plain water. It is also advised to avoid taking any other beverages such as fruit juices with antibiotics as they interfere with the effectiveness of these medications. The antibiotics should also be taken at specific intervals as prescribed by the doctor. Usually, they are used 3 times a day for 7-10 days. If the patient stops taking the antibiotic before the course is completed, then the bacteria might become resistant to the medication. This means that the antibiotic may not help in treating the infection in future. Even if you do feel better after the initial few days of taking the medication, you should complete the prescribed dosage.