Antibiotics are chemical substances produced by various species of microorganisms and other living systems that are capable of inhibiting the growth of killing bacteria and other microorganisms, in small concentrations. These organisms can be bacteria, viruses, fungi or animals, called protozoa. A particular group of these agents is made up of drugs called antibiotics.
Antibiotics can be bacteriostatic (bacteria stopped from multiplying) or bactericidal (bacteria killed). It is believed that antibiotics interfere with the surface of bacteria cells, causing a change in their ability to reproduce.
Antibiotics are manufactured in two ways. One of them is natural. At one time, all antibiotics were made from living organisms. This process, known as biosynthesis, is still used in the manufacture of some antibiotics. Other type is synthetic.
All penicillin types have an identical chemical nucleus, called a ring. The chemical chain that is attached to the ring is different in each type. By changing the molecules of the chain, scientists devise drugs with potentially different effects on different organisms. Some of these drugs are useful in treating infections some are not.
Pharmaceutical manufacturers now use computer- generated images of the rings and experiment with an endless variety of possible chains. Researchers have developed antibiotics that allow taking the medicine once in 24 hours instead of every few hours.
The newer antibiotics are also more effective against a wider range of infections than were earlier drugs. There are dozens of antibiotics. The following are in common use:
The various types of Penicillin make up a large group of antibacterial antibiotics.
These drugs are used for combating deep infections that occur in bones and those resulting from surgery.
These drugs are used to treat tuberculosis, bubonic plague and other infections.
Tetracycline’s are effective against pneumonia, typhus and other bacteria-caused illness, but can harm the function of the liver and kidney.
Macrolides are often used in patients who appear to be sensitive to Penicillin.
The class of antibiotics called Polypeptides is quite toxic (poisonous) and is used mostly on the surface of the skin.
Allergic reactions to antibiotics are usually seen as rashes on the skin, but severe anemia, stomach disorders and deafness can occasionally result. It was once thought that allergic reactions to antibiotics were frequent and permanent.
But, recent studies suggest that many people outgrow their sensitivity or never were allergic. The large numbers of antibiotics that are now available offer a choice of treatment that can avoid allergy-causing drugs.
It is important to remember that all drugs can cause both wanted and unwanted effects on the body. It is a fact that all drugs have the potential to be both beneficial and harmful.
Another use of antibiotics is as additives to the feed of animals. Chickens and beef cattle can be fed with these additives for better weight gains and to speed their growth.
Current work in antibiotics is largely in the area of viruses. Although, some antiviral are available, most have toxic effects so severe that they can be used only in life-threatening diseases where the negative effects are the lesser danger.
Preliminary studies, however, are reporting success in the development of safer antiviral drugs and their use should be possible within the near future.