Saturday, 9 April 2011

When the Cure causes the Disease - Antibiotics

‘The trouble with being a hypochondriac these days is that antibiotics have cured all the good diseases.’ - Caskie Stinnett

Antibiotics were called the ‘miracle drug’ in the 1940s, and are the cure-all of virtually any infectious disease.
However, Antibiotics are effective only on infections caused by bacteria, not viruses. While certain fungi and parasites may be susceptible to certain antibiotics, specific anti-fungals and anti-parasitic agents are needed for their treatment.

Antibiotics STILL considered by many to be the ‘one stop cure’ for all ailments. There is a tendency to pop them the moment someone sneezes, coughs or complains of a fever. While antibiotics are potent fighters of infection, if used indiscriminately, they can actually endanger health.

The myths mentioned below  have been perpetuated and the indiscriminate use of antibiotics has led to the Emergence of "The Super Bug"(1)
NDM-1 Superbug Mutation Shows Up in New Delhi Drinking Water - "The gene mutation, New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase 1 (or NDM-1), was identified in 11 distinct bacterial species, including those that cause cholera and dysentery, researchers from the University of Cardiff reported Thursday in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases." (2)

Myth: Once the symptoms subside the prescribed antibiotics can be stopped.(3)
Fact: Antibiotics should be taken as ordered by the doctor. Failure to do so can cause reinfection or emergence of ‘superbugs’, bacteria resistant to antibiotics. These are more deadly and –even more difficult to overcome.

Myth: Antibiotic resistance is a myth.
Fact: The problem of bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics is very real. When prescribed antibiotics are discontinued before completion of the ‘course’ or used indiscriminately, few bacteria survive the treatment. These virulent bacteria can result in the formation of a ‘superstrain’ resistant to antibiotics. One such strain is the MRSA or the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which can cause devastating infections.

Myth: It is a good idea to use antibiotics as preventative measures against some infections, say while traveling. 
Fact: Antibiotics should not be taken unless ill. Use of antibiotics when they are not needed can be harmful. They can wipe out the body’s natural flora making the body more susceptible to infection. Certain bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics over time and can cause more problems. However, in certain situations doctors recommend antibiotic prophylaxis for e.g. dental procedures, gastrointestinal procedures, pneumocystis, etc.

Myth: Antibiotics should be stocked up in case there is a shortage when you get sick.
Fact: Certain outbreaks in the recent past like bird flu have caused individuals to consider stocking up on antibiotics. While the antibiotics could be helpful in certain situations, they would not be of use in case of viral infections. Storing antibiotics beyond their expiry date results in reduced potency. Also the use of antibiotics past there expiration date can cause organ damage.

Myth: Antibiotics help get over colds or flu.
Fact: Antibiotics only kill bacteria and then not every antibiotic is effective against every strain of bacteria. Viruses are responsible for colds and flu that are unaffected by antibiotics. Doctors tend to prescribe antibiotics in deference to their patients’ wishes; this is to be avoided as the problem of development of bacteria resistant to antibiotics is on the increase.

Myth: Antibiotics will help to get better faster.
Fact: The antibiotics taken for colds and flu do not get rid of bothersome symptoms faster. Whether the antibiotics are taken or not, these illnesses take their toll and take their time to clear up. Use of antibiotics should not be on a ‘just in case’ basis.

Myth: Antibiotics help the immune system to fight colds and flu.
Fact: Antibiotics only kill bacteria, they do not strengthen the immune system. Quite often individuals attribute the antibiotic as responsible for overcoming the infection, while in fact it is the immune system that did all the work and the virus just ran its course.

Myth: Fever always requires antibiotics.
Fact: Fever is a part of the body’s defense mechanism against infection. Even a virus infection can cause can cause a fever. Antibiotics are not warranted in every fever.

Myth: Antibiotics always win the battle against bacteria.
Fact: Bacteria are quickly becoming smarter and quicker. The drug companies are not able to invent antibiotics to keep up with them. So while antibiotics are life-savers when used correctly, indiscriminate use can reduce their effectiveness.

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Thank you for Reading :)

Sources: -
Wikipedia (1)
Time HealthLand (2) 
Times Wellness (3) 

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