Antibiotics are medicines designed to kill and stop the bacteria from multiplying. Used properly, antibiotics can cure serious infections and save lives.
Should antibiotics be the answer to all your illnesses?
No! They shouldn’t. It is crucial to use antibiotics prudently. An overuse or misuse of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance.
Antibiotic resistance means that the bacteria have developed the ability to defeat the medicines that were created to kill them.
According to a 2018 study, anti-microbial resistance (AMR) infections are projected to cause 10 million deaths per annum by 2050, with 4.7 million deaths in Asia indicating a global threat. Antibiotic resistance has given rise to “Superbugs”, a term used to describe strains of bacteria that are resistant to the majority of antibiotics commonly used today. Infections, such as tuberculosis, pneumonia and gonorrhea, which were otherwise easily treatable, have now become severe and harder to treat.
When are antibiotics needed?
Most cases of sore throat, common cold and flu are commonly caused by viruses and hence, antibiotics may not help.
Sinus infection and loose motions can be commonly caused by both bacteria and viruses and hence, there are chances that antibiotics can help in some cases. However, it is important to know the exact cause of the infection and then, get the right treatment based on the diagnosis.
Urinary tract infections, dental infections and some types of sore throat are commonly caused by bacteria and hence, use of antibiotics is recommended.
Bottomline: Antibiotics act against bacteria only and should not be taken to treat viral infections, including the common cold.
What Can You Do to Stop Antibiotic Resistance?
– Use antibiotics ONLY as and when prescribed by your doctor.
– Don’t skip your doses.
– Complete the full course of treatment.
– Never take antibiotics prescribed to another person.
– Prevent infections by regularly washing your hands, practicing special hygiene while handling sick people, keeping your vaccinations up to date, and practicing safe sex.
Confused about the difference between cold and flu? We’ll get you covered in the next emailer. Stay tuned!
(The article is reviewed by Dr. Swati Mishra, Medical Editor)
1. Ali J, Rafiq QA, Ratcliffe E. Antimicrobial resistance mechanisms and potential synthetic treatments. Future Sci OA. 2018 Feb 5;4(4):FSO290. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5905577/