What are Antibiotics?

            Often when you fall sick, and illness prevails for a long time, the doctor says that it is essential to take antibiotics.

            Do you know what antibiotics are?

            Antibiotics are special kind of medicines that either inhibit the growth of bacteria and some other disease-producing micro organisms, or destroy them completely. They help the body to fight infections; hence they are used in the treatment of many diseases.

Antibiotic Capsules

            The word antibiotics are derived form antibiosis. Anti means against and biosis means life. Antibiotics act only against certain types of micro organisms like bacteria. In fact, antibiotics are chemical substances derived form the bodies of micro organisms such as bacteria, moulds or certain plants.

            The antibiotic era began around 1928 with the accidental discovery of a species of Pencillium by Sir Alexander Fleming. Alexander Fleming named the substance penicillin. This antibiotic was effective in the treatment of pneumonia, cough, inflammation of throat, boils, sores, etc. now most people have become reactive to penicillin, that is why it is to given to patients. Streptomycin is an antibiotic that is used in the treatment of tuberculosis. In addition to streptomycin, many other antibiotics are used for curing various diseases.

            In fact, there are more than 80 known antibiotics today. Some antibiotics are effective against specific micro-organisms, while others are effective against a large range of micro-organisms. Those which cover a large range, are called broad-spectrum antibiotics. When an antibiotic is sent into the body either by injection or capsules. It kills the disease spreading micro organism.

            Do you know how antibiotics are made? Most of the antibiotics are made form bacteria and fungi. Scientists have not yet bee able to figure out the exact process by which antibiotics kill the germs of diseases. Some scientists think that antibiotics prevent oxygen form reaching the germs of disease and they die due to lack of oxygen. Some other scientists say that antibiotics prevent the germs from taking food from the body and they die of starvation. Whatever may be the mechanism by which antibiotics act, it is an established fact that these medicines have proved very useful to mankind.

            Every year, millions of people in the world suffering form various diseases are saved by these medicines. In 1930, 20% to 85% of total deaths in America were due to pneumonia. In 1960, this figure came down to 5%, due to the use of antibiotics. Similarly, the deaths due to typhoid have come down form 10% to 2%. Infectious diseases can also be controlled with the help of antibiotics. They are also useful in preventing disease like throat infection, rheumatic fever, venereal diseases, etc.

            Like all things created, antibiotics also have their pros and cons. Use of antibiotics can led to many side effects, such as skin rashes. Many other symptoms may develop or they may cause other diseases. An extreme reaction may even lead to death. Sometimes, overuse of antibiotics can lead to the body getting used to them, or the germs develop immunity to these medicines, and they become ineffective in curing the diseases. Overuse of antibiotics can cause kidney problem.