Drugs are chemical compounds that affect the person taking them. These can have a positive effect like medicines, or a negative one like many illegal drugs.
Medicinal drug types include:
Painkillers are chemicals that relieve the symptoms but do not kill the pathogens. Common examples include paracetamol and aspirin, and they can relieve a headache or a sore throat.
Antibiotics are substances that kill bacteria, or slow down or stop their growth.
Examples include amoxicillin - a type of penicillin and ciprofloxacin.
Antibiotics can be taken to cure the disease by killing the pathogen, but only cure bacterial diseases - they cannot kill viruses.
Antibiotics damage the bacterial cells but do not damage the host cells. 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.
Since penicillin was discovered, 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:
These can lead to the effectiveness of antibiotics being reduced, and the incidence of antibiotic resistance increasing. These bacteria are commonly known in the media as superbugs.
Ways to reduce antibiotic resistance:
Some antibiotics are kept in reserve as a last resort - when others fail. But some bacteria are now becoming resistant to these.
The development of new antibiotics has slowed in recent years. Drugs companies have little financial incentive to develop antibiotics that would only be used very occasionally if none of the other types worked.
Antibiotic development has now increased again, however, as governments realise that this will be required to avert a global catastrophe. Drugs companies are also adopting new strategies to kill bacteria - one approach might make bacteria suicidal. Researchers are also investigating the genomes of pathogens and researching genomic approaches to fighting disease.