Antibiotics are medications that are used to treat bacterial infections, as well as certain fungal or parasitic infections. They do not fight infections that are caused by viruses, such as those that cause colds and flu. Though they are common, antibiotics are generally regarded as a strong medication. They are available only with a prescription from a health care provider.
Types of Antibiotics
Antibiotics are typically classified based on the type of organism that they're designed to kill. For example, antibacterials are the most commonly prescribed type of antibiotic. Ampicillin and penicillin are two of the many examples of antibacterial antibiotics. There are also antibiotics designed to fight fungal infections (antifungals) or parasitic infections (antiparasitics).
Some antibiotics are designed to fight many different types of organisms. These are known as broad-spectrum antibiotics. Others, which fight just a few types of organisms, are classified as narrow-spectrum antibiotics.
Concerns About Antibiotics
Antibiotics are useful drugs, and there’s no question that they have saved many lives. For example, 90 percent of children who developed bacterial meningitis used to die before the development of antibiotics. Strep throat was also sometimes a fatal disease. This is rarely the case today thanks to antibiotics.
However, antibiotics have led to some concerns in recent decades, and that’s because of the development of strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In some cases, the development of these bacteria can be tied directly to the overuse of antibiotics, as well as antibiotics being prescribed incorrectly. These bacteria can be dangerous because the typical medication to treat them may no longer be effective. In many instances, though, an alternative antibiotic may be helpful in ending the bacterial infection. The situation with antibiotic resistance has been improving thanks to health care providers cutting back on unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions (such as for viral infections like the cold and flu).
SOURCES: American Academy of Family Physicians; American Academy of Pediatrics
Using certain antibiotics may increase the risk of kidney stones, new study finds.
Many patients wrongly report a drug allergy, leading doctors to use inferior meds, study finds
3 factors predicted when infant was at low risk of serious infection called sepsis
In the future, identifying which drug works best might take minutes rather than days, research suggests
Three Europeans were hospitalized due to infections from these pets
How you can help prevent health risks
Study found one particular germ in 70 percent of children with additional infections
Study finds more evidence of racial disparities in ERs
For complicated urinary tract infections
Findings were so dismal that clinical trial was stopped early
When taking medication, check with pharmacist to see if sun exposure is an issue
Follow-up of 100 kids found none were allergic
Drainage alone resulted in worse recovery rates, study finds
1 in 5 patients experiences side effects from the drugs, which often aren't necessary
Resistance to key antibiotic treatments decreased -- a rarity, experts say
More infection-prevention education and policies are needed, study findings suggest
New form of vancomycin hits bacteria in 3 ways, helping curb the threat of microbial resistance
People with sepsis had to wait almost an extra hour for antibiotics in busy hospitals, study finds
Patients typically helped by other means, but levels of drug resistance are concerning, researchers say
Researchers don't know why strain of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is affecting this one U.S. city
Study finds certain meds seem safer than others, but overall danger is low, researchers say
Researchers are working on lab-grown versions to control disease-causing bacteria
Study seeking antibiotic alternatives found that only one-third of patients improved within 48 hours
Azithromycin, commonly known as Zithromax, won't up odds for atrial fibrillation, study shows
Drugs that alter gut bacteria might set stage for polyp development, researcher says
Researchers say the drugs wipe out the insects' beneficial gut bacteria
Skin condition cleared up just as well without use of the drugs, study found
Study finds drug-resistant bacteria can colonize in drains, spread to sinks and eventually reach patients
Most say they know little about antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and half think antibiotics work against viruses
Antibiotic-resistant germs no longer confined to hospitals, study warns
Be aware of unusual health risks in the Caribbean and Central and South America, doctor advises