Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial diseases and not viral ones.
Penicillin was the first antibiotic discovered in 1928 by Alexander Fleming. He noticed that some bacteria he had left in a petri dish had been killed by the naturally occurring Penicillium fungus. The fungus was then mass produced in batch fermenters and the antibiotic extracted and purified for use in humans.
Antibiotics are now often chemically modified and so are semi-synthetic or synthetic.
Antibiotics damage the bacterial cells but do not damage the host cells - as they attack the bacterial or fungal cell wall. They have the ability to cure some bacterial diseases that would have previously killed many people. Since their introduction, they have had a large influence on the world's health and death rate.
Different bacteria cause different diseases. One antibiotic may only work against one type of bacteria, or a few types. This means that a range of different antibiotics is needed for the treatment of the whole range of bacterial diseases.
Since Penicillin was discovered in 1928, the use of antibiotics for the treatment of diseases has increased exponentially. Antibiotics are being overused in many ways in our world today.
Commonly prescribed antibiotics are becoming less effective due to a number of reasons:
The use of antibiotics shown above can lead to the effectiveness of antibiotics being reduced and the incidence of antibiotic resistance increasing.
Bacteria which are resistant to the antibiotics normally used to kill them are commonly known as 'superbugs'. MRSA is one of these antibiotic resistant bacteria. It is important that there are control measures in place to prevent the spread of this disease.
MRSA control measures include:
The development of all drugs, including antibiotics, is a costly and time-consuming process. In recent years, we have been unable to develop lots of different new antibiotics. People are concerned that soon some bacteria will be resistant to all known antibiotics and that the development of new ones will take too long.