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What are antibiotics?

We are all familiar with the general term antibiotics (like penicillin,) which are to us magic capsules or tablets prescribed by our doctors to cure us of infections which make us sick and highly uncomfortable.  We pop them up so readily and without thinking as we do not want to miss office or school or any important appointment.  Do we really know what they are and how they act? Little do we realize that they are not without side effects and so we do pay a price for consuming them whenever we can.  Antibiotics as the very name suggests are those medicines acting against the living microorganisms which are the various strains of bacteria affecting different organs of the body. These medicines counter the toxins released by the bacteria when they attack us and thus counter the symptoms which otherwise a bacterial attack would case on the human system. The symptoms caused by bacterial attack may be fever, body pain, vomiting, headache, cough or diarrhoea all of which can make us so sick and weak. Hence we waste no time in consulting our doctor who prescribes a new antibiotic name every time which are to be taken as a course so as to destroy the bacteria.


Action and dosage of antibiotics

We expect the doctor to give us this magic pill which we think makes us healthy again! The bacteria which we are exposed to, multiply very fast in our blood stream and release toxins which make us violently sick and so when we start taking these antibiotics, what happens is that the bacteria are destroyed and their toxins neutralized. We must make sure we take the entire dosage which may be 2 to 3 pills per day for 5 days as this is the complete dosage needed to kill the entire population of bacteria in the body.  We may get better after taking just two doses so much so that we think why take more medicines and we abandon the antibiotic abruptly. This will lead to either relapse of the illness or some bacteria surviving which will then develop resistance to that antibiotic. So common is antibiotic resistance nowadays! Once a bacteria develops resistance to a particular antibiotic, that particular antibiotic ceases to be effective. If this sort of resistance becomes an everyday affair, it will lead to a scary situation because no antibiotic will prove effective and people can fall prey to diseases.


Reasons for antibiotic resistance


There are other reasons why antibiotic resistance develops. We are aware that diseases are caused by microorganisms which are of two types—Bacterial and Viral. It is only the bacterial diseases which can be treated by antibiotics, the reason being that viruses have a very thick protein capsule which no antibiotics can penetrate and destroy. Hence viral diseases are often cured on its own when our immune system takes over and fights the virus. However we seldom wait to see if problem is bacterial or viral and we pop up the pill which not only fails to cure the disease but leads to bacteria, sensing the antibiotic and thus developing resistance.


We must never expose the bacteria to antibiotic that easily for the fear of the bacteria sensing it and mutating and this turning into a antibiotic resistant strain. Mutation means a change in thn bacterial DNA or gene which makes is resistant to that drug.  Each bacteria has a single strand of DNA and often they insert this DNA into the host cell (human organ) and make many copies of their own DNA thereby taking over the host’s defence thus spreading the disease. So if the bacteria develops resistance to a particular antibiotic the control of a particular disease becomes a challenge. For example in case of the deadly disease tuberculosis (TB), bacteria have developed resistance to most antibiotics available today so much so that drug resistant TB is claiming many lives nowadays.  


We are all equally responsible for contributing to drug resistance by taking antibiotics indiscriminately for even viral infections which can get cured in time when our body’s he immune system takes over. For example, diseases like influenza and cold are caused by a viruses, but we start taking antibiotics the minute we get affected. This does not cure us as viruses are immune to antibiotics, but on the other hand the bacteria present in the atmosphere, sense this antibiotic and develop resistance which is a dangerous trend. We have no faith in our own defence mechanisms which is our immune system and pay the penalty for this mistrust. Sometimes when the disease is caused by bacteria, we take only one or 2 doses and stop the medicine thereby inviting the bacteria left over to develop resistance. It requires a complete course of antibiotics to destroy bacteria completely.



So in actuality, we contribute to antibiotic resistance by not following medical advice and taking medicines when not required our callousness and carelessness can be detrimental to another’s life. Doctors should also desist from prescribing antibiotics freely. Sometimes antibiotics are sold over the counter which is still dangerous as many who do not need it may end up consuming it for trivial reasons like headache and thereby contribute to antimicrobial resistance. Hence the onus is on every single one of us to stop taking antibiotics as a habit. Doctors too might tighten the noose on the use of antibiotics and must prescribe only when needed that too with proper instructions.




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