Different types of medicines serve different purposes. For example, some treat the cause of the disease (such as antibiotics), whereas some only treat the symptoms of the disease (such as painkillers).
Antibiotics are medicines that fight infections caused by bacteria. They do this in two main ways:
So any substance that slows the growth and replication of bacteria or kills it completely is an antibiotic.
In 1928, Alexander Fleming discovered the first antibiotic, which is called penicillin. He returned from holiday and noticed penicillium mould growing on a petri dish of bacteria that he had left. The mould appeared to be preventing the growth of bacteria around it.
Different bacteria cause different diseases, so different bacterial diseases must be treated with different antibiotics that are known to work on them. Some antibiotics work on one bacterial disease, but some can work on a few types.
Most antibiotics treat bacterial diseases, however, some can treat parasitic and fungal diseases. Antibiotics are unable to treat viral diseases because they have a very different structure and method of survival than bacteria.
Antibiotics work by targeting structures and processes that bacteria have but animal cells and other pathogens do not. This means that antibiotics do not harm animal cells, which makes them an effective treatment.
The presence of antibiotics means that most bacterial diseases are now treatable. However, antibiotics don’t just kill harmful bacteria, they can also kill good bacteria. This is bad because good bacteria often help our body fight infections.
Since their discovery, antibiotics have been widely used to treat certain types of diseases. However, many antibiotics are no longer effective against certain bacteria because they have been overused. Scientists discovered that many bacteria have evolved, so antibiotics are unable to kill them. This is known as antibiotic resistance.
When we take an antibiotic, some bacteria are eliminated. However, there are some types of bacteria that survive because they are resistant to the antibiotic. They may have unique characteristics that prevent the antibiotic from working on them.
With lower competition for nutrients, the population of antibiotic-resistant bacteria will reproduce and the resistance will spread.
If antibiotic resistance continues to grow, then bacterial diseases will become more difficult to treat in the future. Some methods of reducing antibiotic resistance are:
Painkillers are medicines that relieve the symptoms. Unlike antibiotics, they do not treat the cause of the disease, they just make it more manageable for the patient. So the immune system still needs to fight the pathogen.