5 Facts That Will Challenge Your Beliefs about Antibiotics

“Antibiotic” is translated from Greek “against life”. In reality, antibiotics are the most reliable fighters for life. Since 1928, English microbiologist Fleming was the first to discover penicillin and to give a start for revolution in the area of antimicrobials. Antibiotics saved lives of millions of people and defeated earlier incurable diseases. My Canadian Pharmacy professionals are pleased to present a top list of popular facts and myths about antibiotics.

1. Antibiotics are Helpless vs Viral Diseases

Antibiotics are effective against bacteria, but have no impact on viruses. Bacteria are one of the most ancient groups of organisms on Earth. They are the biggest population of living creatures on our planet. These microorganisms are unicellular with unshaped nucleus. Moreover, bacteria are real cells having their own metabolism and capacity to propagate by division. Some bacteria are essential for normal functioning of human organism. Their collective name is symbiotic flora.

Since people are source of nourishment for bacteria, they:

  • damage (digest) cells and tissues of organism affecting them by means of enzymes;
  • poison organism with their metabolic byproducts (toxins).

While the organism is sound, it keeps the situation under control, but once its protective functions weaken, bacteria take action. This condition leads to development of one or another disease.

Now let us take a look at viruses, the most primitive form of life on Earth which is situation somewhere between animate and inanimate nature. Viruses are composed of genetic material (DNA and RNA) packed into protein coat. It is believed that earlier viruses represented parts of genome of cellular organisms. During evolution, these parts escaped host-cells and continue their existence on the account of other organisms. Moreover, viruses cannot propagate beyond the host body. In order to propagate, virus penetrates into another cell and enables its resources. The most convenient way for penetration of these aggressors is via mucous membranes.

So, how antibiotics struggle against bacteria and viruses?

  • Bacterial war

Malignant bacteria make around 1% of all existing bacteria in the world. In the so-called chemical war with bacteria, antibiotics kill these microorganisms or prevent from their further growth and propagation. First, antibacterial medication affects cellular wall of bacterium. This wall is a strong and complicated construction according to its chemical composition. For its formation, bacterium uses a number of enzymes, and if this process is disturbed, microorganism may die. Second, antibiotics must prevent bacteria from propagation. These microorganisms need to reproduce second copy of ancestral DNA molecule in order to provide it for further generation. DNA duplication requires special proteins. Thus, antibiotics are designed to prevent for DNA and protein synthesis.

  • Incapacity to defeat viruses

Since viruses do not have cellular wall, antibiotics influencing synthesis of cellular wall cannot affect virus. What will happen if virus in affected by antibiotic inhibiting protein biosynthesis? The result will be null, since antibiotic will look for bacterial ribosome, whereas animal cell (including the human one) where the virus penetrated, has a different ribosome. All in all, antibiotics are useless against viral infection. In case of such infection, it is possible to inhibit the work of viral proteins and stop specific processes in vital circle of viruses. In order to do this, special substances with another action are required. It is important to point out that sometimes doctors prescribe antibiotics for viral cold. It is explained by the fact that viral infection is aggravated by the bacterial one with similar symptoms. Antibiotics are important in this case not to get rid of viruses, but to annihilate occurred bacteria.

2. Antibiotics Are Not Required to Be Administered with Antifungal Drugs

Antibiotics are very often prescribed to be taken along with antifungal remedies. Most patients take it for granted and sometimes are puzzled if a doctor doesn’t do it. Nevertheless, it turns out that there is no necessity in antifungal treatment along with antibiotics. Why?

There are several causes for that:

  • When antifungal gets in organism and was cleared of it (with neither benefit nor harm), the medication appears in liver which is overloaded with antibiotics. Besides, this combination may cause side-effects.
  • Afterwards, if a patient will indeed require antifungal therapy, the previously given remedies will be useless.
  • Antifungal remedies are quite expensive. These costs are not always grounded, since it is not proven that after therapy with antibiotics a patient will have fungous disease.

When is it important to prescribe antifungal remedies with antibiotics? Such necessity may occur during prophylactic treatment, for instance, for patients with low immunity, those who suffer from diabetes and the ones who underwent organs transplantation or are at convalescence home. No other cases require this combined therapy.

Most patients do not have any fungous diseases after antibiotics therapy. Besides, in case the disorder occurs, symptoms of fungous issues may be so insignificant that organism is able to cope with it in its own. Thus, the specialists from My Canadian Pharmacy recommend reconsidering the tradition to prescribe antifungal remedies during antibiotics therapy. This will allow saving considerable amount of money and protecting organism from unnecessary influence of medicinal products. In case fungous disease occurs, it will be treated the same way as always.

3. The First Antibiotic Was Discovered Accidentally

For the whole history of mankind, there were no such medications which saved so many people’s lives, as penicillin. This antibiotic acquired its name from mold fungus, Penicillium which soars in air in the form of spores. Discovery of penicillin was made by Scotch biochemist, Alexander Fleming. It took him many years to make this breakthrough in medicine. During First World War, Fleming served an army physician and couldn’t stand the fact that wounded soldiers died after successfully-performed operation: from gangrene or sepsis. Fleming wanted to find the remedy to correct this injustice. In 1918, Fleming came back to London in his bacteriological laboratory where he worked until his death. In 1922, he had his first success which resulted in penicillin discovery in six years.

Affected by cold, Fleming placed another culture of bacteria Micrococcus lysodeicticus into a petrie dish (glass cylinder with low walls and cover) and suddenly sneezed. In several days, he opened the cover and found that bacteria died in some locations. Nasal mucus got likely there during sneezing. Fleming started exploration and finally discovered lysozyme, natural mucous enzyme of humans, animals and some plants. It damages bacteria walls and dissolves them, and it is harmless for sound tissues at the same time. Nevertheless, lysozyme affects the majority of bacteria very slowly. Besides, it struggles not against morbid bacteria, but against saprophytes, microorganisms-cohabitants which are present in human organism. Lysozyme regulates their number and prevents from their transformation into parasites. After each experiment, petrie dishes had to be sterilized. Fleming was not used to wasting cultures and washing lab dishes right after the experiment. He started washing only after two-three tens of cups accumulated on the table. He studied the dishes preliminary. And once upon a time, when he examined flue, one of petrie dishes appeared to have mold which dissolved the culture, colonies of Staphylococcus aureus, and there were also drops resembling dew instead of yellow turbid mass.

In order to check his supposition about bactericidal impact of mold fungus, Fleming transplanted several spores from his dish into nutrient broth in flask and left them to grow at room temperature. The surface was covered by thick felted goffered mass. Initially it was white and then became green and consequently black. The broth remained transparent. In several days, it acquired intensive yellow color and produced special substance that Fleming was not able to get in pure form, since it remained quite unsteady. This yellow substance produced by fungus was called penicillin by Fleming.

It turned out that even while cultivating 500-800 times, cultural liquid inhibited the growth of Staphylococcus and some other bacteria. Thus, its exclusively strong antagonist influence on certain bacteria was proven. It was discovered that penicillin inhibited not only the growth of staphylococcus, but also streptococcus, pneumococcus, gonococcus, diphtheria bacillus and malignant anthrax. Nevertheless, it was useless against colon bacillus, typhoid bacillus, causative influenza, paratyphoid fever and cholera. The most significant discovery was absence of adverse impact of penicillin on human leukocytes even in doses surpassing the dosage perilous for staphylococcus. It meant that penicillin was harmless of human health.

4. Compatibility of Antibiotics and Alcohol Is Under Discussion

Some people consider alcohol to prevent a medication to give necessary effect, and some people think this combination causes side-effects. But in cases with the majority of antibiotics, neither variant is correct. From medical point of view, it is more dangerous is a patient decides not to take the drug after a glass of wine. Any factor inducing to miss a dosage of medication aggravates a global issue of bacterial resistance to antibiotics.

As a matter of fact, alcohol doesn’t take any impact on the majority of antibiotics applied. But there are exceptions: thus, a medication belonging to cephalosporin group slows down the process of alcohol disintegration which results in increased level of acetic aldehyde. This may cause adverse consequences expressed by vertigo, vomit, blushing, headaches, labored breathing and chest pains. Similar effects may be expected from disulfiram which is sometimes applied for alcohol dependence treatment. The point is that a patient starts feeling bad after alcohol intake, which will make him refuse his habit in the future. These sensations are unpleasant; therefore, it is better to retain from alcohol usage (and within several days after therapy course termination) during treatment by means of cefotetan and disulfiram.

Another antibiotic drug which is ill-matched with alcohol is metronidazole. It is applied for the treatment of mouth cavity infection, infected feet ulcers and decubitus. It is considered to have the same side-effects as in case of cephalosporins and alcohol co-administration. But this point of view was placed in doubt after conducted analysis of pharmacological studies in 2003. Moreover, a trial was conducted with participation of Finnish men during which they took alcohol with metronidazole within the course of five days without any adverse reactions. Nevertheless, authors of this trial acknowledge that possibility of side-effects should not be excluded, and now medical experts do not recommended combining alcohol with metronidazole. There is also a list of antibiotics the administration of which must not be accompanied by alcohol intake, such as tinidazol, linezolid, and erythromycin.

All in all, there is a large list of other antibiotics which may be combined with alcohol. Ethanol will unlikely assist in treatment of diseases, since it’ll make organism dehydrated and inactive, but this is not connected with drugs. Perhaps, myth of antibiotics incompatibility with alcohol appeared after some particular cases, but there are two more interesting theories. The first one lies in the supposition that antibiotics are used for treatment of widely-spread sexually transmittable diseases; so, physicians punished their patients for such dissolute behavior by prohibiting to drink alcohol. Another explanation was given by the researcher, James Bingham. He met a retired brigadier-general who started using penicillin during the Second World War for treatment of wounded soldiers in North Africa. At that time, there was a shortage of penicillin, so after medications intake, patients’ urine was taken and processed for obtaining the drug. The treated soldiers were allowed to drink beer, but it resulted in increase of urine volume and aggravated the procurement of the drug. According to this general, military commanders decided to prohibit beer.

Nevertheless, myths dispelling is a double edged sword. When a patient who is not able to live without a glass of wine successfully passes a therapy course with antibiotics – this is good, since it allows struggling against bacterial resistance to medicines. But in case general public find out the whole truth, the consequences may be bad.

5. Antibiotics Are to Be Drunk with Pure Water

Antibiotics must be drunk with pure water. Medicinal practice has its own rules of drugs administration. My Canadian Pharmacy will tell you of the harmful consequences for organism if the drugs are drunk with other beverages.

The most harmless example is when therapeutic effect gets neutralized. For instance, if calcium medications, tetracycline and amidopyrine are drunk with effervescent beverages, they lose their qualities. They become absolutely useless. The same thing happens in case tetracycline is taken along with milk.

A patient must remember that erythromycin is never to be taken along with pomegranate juice. Medical experts warn that this beverage may cause irregular breathing, and enhanced heartbeat leading to lethal outcome.