How Do Antibiotics Work?

02/06/15

Antibiotics are drugs that act against infections caused by bacteria. Their mechanism of action is based on the fact that the antibiotic substance attacks the cell wall or metabolism of the bacteria.

How do antibiotics work?

Antibiotics are drugs that act against infections caused by bacteria. Their mechanism of action is based on the fact that the antibiotic substance attacks the cell wall or metabolism of the bacteria:

    Bacteriostatic antibiotics inhibit bacteria from growing.
    Bactericidal antibiotics kill bacteria.

What side effects can antibiotics have?

    Diarrhea

The most common side effects of AB treatment affect the gastrointestinal tract. Because antibiotics inhibit the growth of bacteria or even kill them, those bacteria that normally live in the digestive tract and perform important functions there are also affected. If these bacteria are killed, this often leads to diarrhea.

Vaginal fungal infections

Lactic acid bacteria maintain an acidic vaginal environment. In this environment, pathogenic germs cannot settle so easily or multiply in excess. If these beneficial bacteria are killed by the administration of antibiotics, pathogens such as yeast fungi can spread undisturbed and cause fungal infections.

Skin reactions

In rare cases, skin rashes occur as an expression of an allergic reaction.

When is which antibiotic used?

In many cases, the distinction as to whether an infection is viral or bacterial is already clear on the basis of the clinical examination. In some cases, however, it is difficult to make a clear diagnosis. In such cases, further examination is usually necessary.

A good way to distinguish between viral and bacterial infections is to determine the CRP. This is a blood value (C-reactive protein) that rises just a few hours after a bacterial infection and drops again within 24 hours after successful AB therapy.

If a bacterial infection is suspected, the causative pathogen can be identified with the aid of a bacterial culture. This involves culturing and multiplying the bacteria from a sample (blood/urine/secretions) on a special nutrient medium. However, this examination takes time: even with germs that can be easily grown, a result can only be expected after about two days. The physician can then use further examination techniques to precisely determine the bacteria that have grown and test their sensitivity to antibiotics.

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