Pharmacology: How Antibiotics Work

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Posted on 17th December 2010 by admin in Uncategorized

I don’t know anyone who has not taken an antibiotic before.  These days, antibiotics are given out like candy by doctors.  My previous physician would prescribe me an antibiotic for everything that seems to ail me.  It became a little disconcerting and I eventually looked for a doctor who believed in dispensing antibiotics sparingly.  Pharmacology is the allied health field in charge of creating the antibiotics that are made available to the general public, and the industry is regulated by the F.D.A.

Antibiotics are designed to kill bacteria in different ways.  Penicillin is used to disrupt the building of cell walls in certain bacteria.  Bacteria do their best to build strong walls around their cells.  These walls are able to protect them from harmful chemicals and salts.  If the cell walls are not permitted to form completely, the bacteria will eventually break open and die when introduced to harmful chemicals.  Other antibiotics are designed to interfere with the ability of particular bacteria to produce proteins they need to grow or work on the mechanisms of a bacteria in other ways.

Not every antibiotic will affect all bacteria in the same way.  Penicillin is highly effective against Staphylococcus but not against E. coli.  However, there are different antibiotics that can counter E. coli.  There is a list of antibiotics that are effective against bacteria.  This list is referred to as the “spectrum activity.”  A broad-spectrum antibiotic can kill many different bacteria.  So far though, no one antibiotic has been found to be effective against all bacteria.

There are possible side effects when using an antibiotic.  All yeasts in the body are not affected by antibiotics.  When the antibiotic kills off most of the bacteria in the body- both the good and the bad- there is no competition left for the yeast.  This gives the yeast the opportunity to grow and thrive changing the microflora balance.

Some common side effects of antibiotic use include:

-Diarrhea, due to the overgrowth of the Clostridia difficile

-Vaginal yeast infections, caused by Candida

-Oral thrush, caused when Candida infects the mucous membranes of the mouth

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