Use of Antibiotics

Important information on use of antibiotics: 

1. Antibiotics are only useful to treat infections caused by bacteria.

2. Majority of infections are due to viruses and antibiotics will not be effective in the treatment of infections caused by viruses. 

3. Culture of a specimen being positive does not always mean that there is an infection. Eg: Non healing wounds which had being there for a long time may be due to many reasons other than infection. If you take a swab from these wounds and culture there will be some bacteria growing but they may just be lying on the wound (colonization) without causing an infection. Antibiotics will not help in such a situation.

4. Antibiotics can give rise to many side effects and complications. ( Refer the section on side effects of drugs)

5. Over use of antibiotics will give rise to development of resistance to antibiotics in bacteria. The persons who have taken antibiotics will harbour bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, which will make them vulnerable to infections caused by "resistant bacteria" thus making these infections difficult to treat. 

6. Infections with resistant bacteria will have to be treated with “strong" antibiotics which are more expensive and toxic. 

7. “Resistant bacteria" can spread from one person to the other. Thus persons who have not being treated by antibiotics before can also harbor "resistant bacteria". 

8. Bacteria are not always harmful. Bacteria that usually resides in and on our body (eg on the skin, in the intestines) protect us from harmful bacteria. Therefore it is not necessary to get rid of all the bacteria. If you try to do that you will only have the "good bacteria" being replaced by the “bad, resistant bacteria". 

"Stop the unnecessary use of antibiotics
Do not take antibiotics without doctor's advice"

Prepared By :

Dr Kushlani Jayatilleke, MBBS, Dip Med Micro, MD 
Consultant Microbiologist,
Sri Jayewardenapura General Hospital,

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