You’ve most likely taken an antibiotic or anti-infective at least once in your lifetime. From treatments for painful strep throat or ear infections as a child, to burning urinary tract infections or itchy skin infections as an adult, antibiotics are one of the most highly utilized and important medication classes we have in medicine.
Understanding the vast world of antibiotics and anti-infectives is no easy task. Anti-infectives are a larger class of many types of drugs that cover a broad range of infections, including antibiotics, antifungals, antiviral, and even protozoal infections.
There is no one type of antibiotic that cures every infection. Antibiotics specifically treat infections caused by bacteria, such as Staph., Strep., or E. coli., and either kill the bacteria (bactericidal) or keep it from reproducing and growing (bacteriostatic). Antibiotics do not work against any viral infection.
When To Use Antibiotics
Antibiotics are specific for the type of bacteria being treated and, in general, cannot be interchanged from one infection to another. When antibiotics are used correctly, they are usually safe with few side effects. Health care providers are able to assess each patient individually to determine the correct antibiotic, dose and length of treatment.
However, as with most drugs, antibiotics can lead to side effects that may range from being a nuisance to serious or life-threatening. In infants and the elderly, in patients with kidney or liver disease, in pregnant or breastfeeding women, and in many other patient groups, antibiotic doses may need to be adjusted based upon the individual patient. Drug interactions can also be common with antibiotics.