Your antibiotic Q&A

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Q: What is an antibiotic?

A: Antibiotics, also known as antimicrobial drugs, are drugs that fight infections caused by bacteria in both humans and animals. Antibiotics fight these infections either by killing the bacteria or making it difficult for the bacteria to grow and multiply. Antibiotics only treat certain bacterial infections. Antibiotics do not have any effect on viruses.

Q: What are bacteria and viruses?

A: Bacteria are single-celled organisms found all over the inside and outside of our bodies. Many bacteria are not harmful. In fact, some are actually helpful, including the majority of bacteria that live in our intestines (guts). However, disease-causing bacteria can cause illnesses such as strep throat. Viruses, on the other hand, are microbes that are even smaller than bacteria and cannot survive outside the body’s cells. They cause illness by invading healthy cells.

Q: Which infections are caused by viruses and should not be treated with antibiotics?

A: Viral infections should not be treated with antibiotics. Common infections caused by viruses include colds, flu and most sore throats amongst others so be sure to speak to your doctor before accepting antibiotics for every condition.

Q: What is antibiotic resistance?

A: Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. When bacteria become resistant, antibiotics cannot fight them, and the bacteria multiply.

Q: Why should I care about antibiotic resistance?

A: Antibiotic resistance is one of the most urgent threats to the public’s health. Antibiotic resistant bacteria can cause illnesses that were once easily treatable with antibiotics to become untreatable, leading to dangerous infections. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are often more difficult to kill and more expensive to treat. In some cases, the antibiotic-resistant infections can lead to serious disability or even death.

Q: Why are bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics?

A: Overuse and misuse of antibiotics allows the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Every time a person takes antibiotics, sensitive bacteria (bacteria that antibiotics can still attack) are killed, but resistant bacteria are left to grow and multiply. This is how repeated use of antibiotics can increase the number of drug-resistant bacteria.

Q: How should I use antibiotics to protect myself and my community from antibiotic resistance?

A: Here is what you can do to help prevent antibiotic resistance:

·       Dispose of Unused Medicines

·       Tell your healthcare professional you are concerned about antibiotic resistance.

·       Ask your healthcare professional if there are steps you can take to feel better and get symptomatic relief without using antibiotics.

·       Take the prescribed antibiotic exactly as your healthcare professional tells you.

·       Ask your healthcare professional about vaccines recommended for you and your family to prevent infections that may require an antibiotic.

·       Never save antibiotics for the next time you get sick.

·       Never take antibiotics prescribed for someone else.

Q: Can antibiotic resistance develop from using acne medication?

A: Yes. Antibiotic use, appropriate or not, contributes to the development of antibiotic resistance. This is true for acne medications that contain antibiotics. Short- and long-term use of antibiotics for treatment or prevention of bacterial infections should be under the direction of a healthcare professional to ensure appropriate use and detection of resistance.

Q: Do probiotics have a role in helping to reduce antibiotic resistance?

A: Probiotics are defined as microorganisms that when administered in sufficient quantities may improve health. There are a variety of probiotics that have been studied for various health benefits. Their role in preventing drug-resistant infections in humans has not been established. There are currently numerous studies underway researching the subject. Although some studies have shown benefit, the data are not conclusive enough for specific recommendations at this point in time.