There is nothing to be afraid of: 10 antibiotic myths that interfere with treatment

WITHOUT ANTIBIOTICS IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO IMAGINE MODERN MEDICINE , and they themselves have gone far ahead of penicillin, invented almost a hundred years ago. Today they are able to fight superbugs and treat uncomplicated appendicitis , and they are trying to get them from the most unexpected sources – be it soil , an anthill , the blood of a Komodo dragon or the milk of a platypus . The endless search is due to the fact that the longer mankind uses antibiotics, the higher the likelihood of bacteria resistance to them – that is, the risk that new means will be required. And if you consider that antibiotics, without knowing it, were even treated             Neanderthals , it becomes clear that the bacteria have had enough time to adapt.

As important as bacterial resistance, we know too little about antibiotics. More precisely, there is already plenty of knowledge about them, but for some reason we continue to believe in myths: many people are still convinced that antibiotics can cure influenza, although it is useless to treat viral infections with them . This is just one of the common misconceptions. We’ve put together ten more that will help you understand what antibiotics are and why they are more safe than dangerous, but they should not be overused anyway .        

Antibiotics should be taken with probiotics 

Antibiotics destroy bacteria, and probiotics restore intestinal microflora – sounds logical. However, in fact, antibiotics in the vast majority of cases do not cause either dysbiosis or thrush. Of course, the small risk is retained , but it is usually the only thing that a person faces a course of antibiotics, – short-term diarrhea .     

In respect of probiotics, if not to take in commercial research, doctors are skeptical calculation: Further research is needed to understand which bacterial strains are most useful and in what doses. Mayo Clinic experts believe that the best way to bring the intestines in order – and plenty of drink choices softer in comparison with a conventional food diet, as well as reducing the volume of fiber.        

Antibiotics should always be taken in a course

We’ve all heard that a course of antibiotics should definitely be completed – but researchers are n’t sure if this is really necessary if you feel better. According to recent data , early termination of antibiotic therapy does not contribute to the development of resistance to them, but taking longer than necessary, just increases this risk. In addition, for the convenience of the patient, they are trying to create new drugs so that they do not need to be taken for a long time – and there are even antibiotics for a single dose.       

However, there are a number of diseases (the most obvious example is tuberculosis), in which refusal from the drug in the middle of the course can lead to serious consequences. Experts say the ideal length of treatment has not yet been determined – it varies from person to person, including which antibiotics have been used in the person in the past.      

You should always do a sensitivity test 

Such tests really help to avoid many problems and prescribe an antibiotic that will work exactly the way and as fast as the doctor would like. But in many cases, the medical algorithm includes first the appointment of a broad-spectrum drug that affects different types of bacteria, including those most likely to be associated with a given disease.      

Only then, if necessary, another antibiotic is prescribed, aimed at solving a narrower problem. At the same time, research results show that antibiotics of the first type can be at least as effective.    

Antibiotics are unconditional evil for children and pregnant women 

Researchers believe that antibiotics should be used with caution in pregnant women . Which, however, does not mean that they are prohibited – it is only important to think about their expediency in each specific case. Antibiotics are not dangerous, but only if they are taken as indicated and in the correct regimen.        

Recently, the World Health Organization updated the list of essential medicines, dividing antibiotics into recommended, controlled and reserve antibiotics – this is important precisely for the prescription of the “right” antibiotics in each case.    

Injections are better than pills

A couple of decades ago in hospitals often use injectable and not oral antibiotics. This was quite justified, since in the arsenal of doctors there were imperfect drugs, and their choice was rather small. Bioavailability (that is, how much of the drug actually entered the bloodstream) was then higher for injectable forms (about 80%, and for tablets it was 40-60%).    

Since then, much has changed in the world of antibiotics: they have become more perfect, “learned” to work faster, and the tablets were finally able to boast a bioavailability of 90–95% – this made intramuscular injections a relic of the past, especially given their painfulness; when administered intravenously, the drug will actually work faster, but this is rarely needed. Tablet antibiotics are easier to administer and significantly safer . True, some drugs cannot yet be enclosed in a tablet form – they will simply be digested by enzymes in the stomach.           

Antibiotics can be used to prevent

Antibiotic prophylaxis is used to reduce the risk of infections associated with open fractures and wounds, including after surgery, and is justified in such cases. But often antibiotic prophylaxis means preventing infections in everyday situations – for example, when a person goes on vacation to an unfamiliar country and wants everything to go smoothly.          

We are primarily talking about an intestinal disorder known as traveler’s diarrhea , which occurs against the background of a change in the diet or climate zone. However, doctors around the world agree that such prevention is overkill. It is more correct and safer to be careful with your food and water choices and, alternatively, ask your doctor to recommend an antibiotic in case a problem does arise.           

Resistance occurs only due to the constant use of antibiotics

The widespread use of antibiotics has accelerated the rate at which bacteria become resistant to them. But to think that only regular and uncontrolled use of antibiotics can lead to resistance is wrong. Scientists have found that antibiotic resistance genes may be to blame , which give bacteria the ability to destroy antibiotics of the carbapenem class – one of the main agents against extremely dangerous superbugs .         

Not so long ago, it turned out that some bacteria, in the struggle for territory, destroy other microbes, “picking up” the remnants of their DNA, which may contain genes for antibiotic resistance – and this complicates the task. At the moment, a promising solution to the problem seems to be a thorough study of plasmids – molecules that carry genetic information – and the development of tools that would prevent resistance genes from attaching to these plasmids.             

Any antibiotic is better
than nothing

There exists whether generic antibiotics, which in any case help? The answer is unequivocal: no. There are drugs with a wide spectrum of action, but even they are always prescribed based on what type of bacteria is most likely in the patient. So the position “I’ll finish this antibiotic so as not to buy the one prescribed by the doctor” does not work.    

According to estimates of experts, about 50% of antibiotics worldwide is purchased without a prescription. And this is not good: in addition to general concern about the growing number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, there is a risk of overshooting, if not with the type of drug, then with its dosage or compatibility with other drugs that require constant intake. In addition, the use of antibiotics to fight mild bacterial infections such as pharyngitis or bronchitis is most often not required , as our immune system is able to cope with it on its own.             

Antibiotics in meat are a health threat  

To begin with , antibiotics are not used uncontrollably as growth stimulants or to treat infections in animals – and there is ongoing research on this topic. And so far none of them has allowed us to reasonably talk about the dangers of such use for people – another thing is that it is better to limit the amount of red meat in the diet for other reasons .         

It is worth keeping in mind that even in organic, natural or biodynamic farming, animals are treated with antibiotics if necessary. Although, in fairness, WHO recently asked farmers not to do this unnecessarily.    

Antibiotics are incompatible with alcohol 

Most of the most commonly prescribed antibiotics are compatible with alcohol. In any case, one or two glasses of wine is not a reason to interrupt the course or to think that antibiotics have ceased to work and should be taken from the beginning. They say that combining alcohol with antibiotics was banned during the Second World War. Then the production of the drug was not massive and it was used many times – urine was collected from patients, from which new penicillin was then obtained. The beer the soldiers allowed themselves increased the volume of urine, and it became more difficult to process it.       

There are exceptions: metronidazole, tinidazole, trimethoprim, linezolid, and some other antibiotics should not be mixed with alcohol to avoid unpleasant side effects. And do not abuse alcohol during the course of antibiotics – it additionally weakens the body, which does not contribute to the fight against infection.    

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