Any medicine used for combating bacterial infections in our body is called an antibiotic. Antibiotics work by attacking bacterial cells and at the same time, preserve ours. The structure of our cells differs than those of bacteria and antibiotics are smart enough to use that difference between them.
Types of antibiotics and their effect
Depending on the type of bacteria they want to attack, antibiotics vary in their structure and purpose. While some may affect a range of bacteria, others have only one type of bacteria they are in charge of.
- Penicillins destroy bacterial cells by preventing them from dividing and building membranes. Penicillins include penicillin and amoxicillin and they come in oral capsules and tablets. Although doctors usually run tests to determine which is best to treat a particular bacterial infection, amoxicillin is usually used to treat pneumonia, ear or throat infections, or urinary tract infections. Similarly, penicillin is prescribed for mild to moderate upper respiratory tract infections and scarlet fever.
- Cephalosporins also disrupt bacteria synthesis just like penicillins do. Unlike penicillins, they may be used to treat skin infections, bone and kidney infections, and in some cases, sexually transmitted disease such as gonorrhea. Since they share some properties with penicillins, cephalosporins are not recommended for people allergic to penicillins. Ancef, Kefazol, and Zinacef are only some of the drugs containing this antibiotic.
- Macrolides include erythromycin, roxithromycin, azithromycin and clarithromycin. These antibiotics are used to battle infections of the respiratory system, or skin, genital and soft tissue infections.
- Fluoroquinolones include any drug containing “floxacin” in its trade name. They are effective in treating sinusitis, pneumonia, bronchitis, or urinary tract infections. They possess a high level of absorption and can be equally effective in oral or intravenous form.
- Sulfonamides do not kill bacteria but prevent their growth. They are absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract and the absorption takes no longer than 4 – 6 hours. Side effects may include nausea or a headache. Severe side effects which require an immediate termination of the use include fever, rash, and anaphylactic shock.
- Tetracyclines are usually taken orally. They work the same way sulfonamides do – by preventing the growth of bacteria. They are highly potent so it is strictly prohibited to use these drugs during pregnancy.
- Aminoglycosides have a complex chemical structure. The most popular drugs of this type include gentamicin, streptomycin, and neomycin. Unlike some other antibiotics, Aminoglycosides kill bacteria instead of inhibiting their growth. They are usually taken intravenously.
As synthetic antibiotics may destroy our own cells while fighting an infection, it is useful to know that there are natural remedies which preserve the gut flora and boost the immune system.
Nature’s most potent antibiotics are garlic, echinacea, oregano, and propolis. Garlic successfully destroys bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Some bacteria may develop a resistance to certain medications but none has been able to do so with garlic. Echinacea enhances the production of lymphocytes which are the body’s first line of defense against infections. Unlike pharmaceutical antibiotics, propolis kills bacteria and viruses. Its use in the flu season may decrease the chances of catching flu by 53%. Oregano oil has been shown to kill 25 different bacteria all of which have developed resistance to antibiotics.