Why don’t antibiotics cure colds?

Why aren’t antibiotics curing my cold?

Sometimes we may feel unwell, have a sore throat, runny nose, or even a fever, at which point we decide to consult our family medicine cabinet rather than our GP. Bad job! Self-medicating is usually not a good idea.

Maybe in this case, we remember that in similar cases, like our last tonsillitis, our doctor prescribed some antibiotics that made us feel better, and we still keep some pills at home.

To our surprise, when we took them in the same way this time, although the antibiotics had not expired, the effect did not appear and the discomfort remained. How is this going?

Antibiotics don’t always work?

Medicines can be very complex, so it is always recommended that the doctor tell us what to do in each case.Ideally we first make sure If our ongoing pathology is due to viral or bacterial infection or other causesbecause the correct course of action depends on this.

people taking medication without a prescription

What are bacteria?

A bacteria is a unicellular microorganism It belongs to the Kingdom of Monera.yes prokaryotesit means lacks a well-defined nucleus and from other inner membrane organelles (similar to cell organelles) present in eukaryotic cells such as animal and plant cells. Therefore, we can say that bacteria are generally simpler than the cells of our body.

There is no doubt that bacteria are the real winners of evolution on Earth, conquering all habitats in unimaginable abundance and diversity.

They can live in a wide variety of environments, from soil and water to the human body and other living organisms. Some bacteria are beneficial, play an important role in organic matter decompositionthis Production of foodthis synthesis of vitamins and other important biological processes.However, also Presence of pathogenic bacteria that can cause disease in humans, animals and plants.Some of these bacteria are known for their ability to cause infections, such as the genus salmonella, Escherichia Escherichia coli anyone Streptococcus.

Microbiologist holding an agar dish

until not long ago Bacterial infection is one of the leading causes of human death, because they prevent, for example, any kind of surgery. In an era when open wounds meant death, life expectancy was extremely low.

Because of this, when they start health measures (especially in a healthy environment), we begin to win the battle against infection even before we are aware of the presence of bacteria and their virulence.

Success starts with stopping these bacteria from colonizing our bodies through open wounds, eventually leading to infections that can easily kill patients if they spread uncontrollably.

Despite this, infections continue to occur, so achieving our current standard of living is critical specific drugantibiotic– When these bacteria infect us, they manage to kill them.

Drugs to treat infection: Antibiotics

What is a virus?

As we have discussed in other articles, A virus is a subcellular microorganism consisting of molecules of genetic material (RNA or DNA) surrounded by a protein coat called a capsid..Viruses are obligate parasites, which means They need to infect cells of other organisms to replicate and survive, because they lack their own cellular machinery to perform basic metabolic functions. This is why they are at the limit of life, and while most of the scientific community considers them non-living, there is still some debate about how to consider them.

Viruses are extremely diverse in shape, size and structure. They can infect a variety of organisms, including animals, plants, bacteria, and of course humans.virus can cause disease in the host, which makes them important pathogens. Some well-known viral illnesses include the common cold, flu, HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) which causes AIDS or herpes.

Boy sick in bed with viral disease

Because of how often we are infected by them, sometimes they cause easily treatable illnesses like colds, but in other cases they cause real problems, like the Covid-19 pandemic.for this reason Specific drugs have been developed against the virusalthough many times treating the symptoms of the disease is preferred.

How do antibiotics work?

these drugs work Interfering with bacterial life processes, causing their death or inhibiting their growth. This is because it specifically affects these vital processes, making them harmless to our cells and viruses, so if our disease is caused by the latter, we must use antiviral drugs, drugs developed specifically against them.

The mechanism of action of antibiotics can vary, but here are some common ways they work:

1. Inhibition of cell wall synthesis: Many bacteria have cell walls that give them shape and protection. Antibiotics such as penicillins and cephalosporins interfere with the formation of these walls, weakening the bacteria and making them more susceptible to osmolysis, which means breaking down and dying.

2. Interfering with protein synthesis: Antibiotics such as aminoglycosides and macrolides bind to ribosomes (the cell’s protein factories) and prevent bacteria from making the proteins they need to survive.

person reading leaflet on antibiotics

3. Interference with nucleic acid synthesis: Antibiotics such as quinolones and rifampin interfere with the replication and transcription of bacterial genetic material, hindering their ability to reproduce and grow, resulting in the inability of bacteria to maintain population numbers and eventually disappearing.

4. Suppresses metabolism: Some antibiotics, such as sulfonamides, interfere with specific metabolic pathways necessary for bacterial growth.

5. Changes in the cell membrane: Some antibiotics can damage the cell membrane of bacteria, altering its integrity and function.

Why is antibiotic use so common?

Antibiotics are the class of drugs that has saved the most lives since the 20th century.Its use is essential in most cases Lacking them would cause our entire health system to collapse. However, alongside their enormous effects, there are many dangers associated with them, so, combined with our sometimes inadvertent use of these drugs, this could be a potentially perfect storm.

The abuse of antibiotics is not only caused by patients themselves, but in many cases, doctors overprescribe drugs. When they’re not sure about the bacteria that infect us, they’ll prescribe generic antibiotics, Prescribe antibiotics in the absence of an overt infection only for concomitant use with other medications (eg, anti-inflammatory drugs) or prophylactic antibiotic use is advocated.

Of course, this is not the fault of health professionals, but the misuse of this powerful tool is just a symptom of a health system that fails to give each patient the time and attention they need to administer antibiotics properly.

Woman takes antibiotics to treat discomfort

This healthy abuse and its widespread use in industries such as livestock farming in many parts of the world, Trigger the emergence of superbugsbacteria resistant to most antibiotics known so far.

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