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What is Antibiotics? Resistance, Uses, and Side effects

January 02, 2020 | Abigail Mckay

Antibiotics are a relatively new concept that emerged in 1929 when Alexander Fleming developed penicillin. Until the development of immunizations and antibiotics, the mortality rate in most countries was still high due to the lack of modern medicine utilized when fighting bacterial infections. Antibiotics target bacteria and slow the replication of the bacteria or ultimately kill the bacteria. It is vital to note that antibiotics will not treat viral infections. The typical "cold" is, in fact, a virus and not a bacterial infection. While many people believe that an antibiotic will help defeat the virus, taking an antibiotic to treat a common cold can increase resistance to antibiotics in the future.  

Antibiotic Resistance

Resistance, which develops through unneeded usage of antibiotics, can be detrimental when antibiotics are needed to treat a bacterial infection. Antibiotic resistance can extend through an antibiotic when not indicated or by not taking the complete course. For an antibiotic to be prescribed, a doctor must determine that the illness presented is indeed a bacterial infection. Strep throat, a sinus infection, or a urinary tract infection are examples of bacterial infections that need an antibiotic to treat effectively. 

How to Take an Antibiotic 

When a doctor prescribes an antibiotic, it is essential to take it exactly as indicated. Many will feel better within the first few days of taking an antibiotic. However, this does not mean you should stop taking it once symptoms subside. Instead, continue to take the antibiotic as prescribed until the course is completed. The entire course of antibiotics will ensure the destruction of the bacterial infection. If you stop the course mid-treatment, there is a chance that the condition will come back stronger. Another course of antibiotics will be indicated if the infection returns, and it will usually require a more potent dosage to treat the disease. 

Probiotic Usage with Antibiotics

Antibiotics can have various side effects, but the most common are gastric upset and diarrhea. Antibiotics can alter the bacteria in the gut, causing a solid presence of harmful bacteria. Probiotics are good bacteria that can be taken orally to replenish the good bacteria in the heart. Our gut houses good and bad bacteria; sometimes, harmful bacteria can flourish, leading to stomach ailments. Replacing the good bacteria in the gut through probiotics helps keep a healthy balance. Many doctors have started recommending probiotics during antibiotic treatment to prevent a gut imbalance and subsequent gastric upset. 

To prevent the overuse of antibiotics, do not pressure your doctor to prescribe an antibiotic if they do not think it is necessary. Instead, follow the doctor's orders to treat the presenting illness. If symptoms continue without resolution of symptoms, set up another appointment with your physician to determine if the viral infection has evolved into a bacterial disease.


Our clinical experts continually monitor the health and medical content posted on CURA4U, and we update our blogs and articles when new information becomes available. Last reviewed by Dr. Saad Zia on May 2nd, 2023.

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