The invention of antibiotics has proved to be a boon a boon to society. The credit of invention goes to Sir Alexander Fleming whose careful observations in 1928 resulted in the invention of antibiotics. Antibiotics are chemical substances produced by various species of micro-organisms and other living systems, which are capable in small concentrations of inhibiting the growth of or killing bacteria and other micro-organisms. These organisms can be bacteria, viruses, fungi, or animals called protozoa.
A particular group of these agents is made up of d\rugs called antibiotics, from the Greek word anti (“against”) and (“life”). Some antibiotics are produced from living organisms such as bacteria, fungi, and molds. Others are wholly or in part synthetic—that is, produced artificially. Penicillin is one of the best-known antibiotics. Its discovery and later development is among mankind’s greatest achievements.
Invention of antibiotics has enabled the medical profession to treat many infectious diseases effectively, including some that were once life threatening. Antibiotics can be bacteriostatic (bacteria stopped from multiplying) or bactericidal (bacteria killed). It is believed that antibiotics interfere with the surface of bacteria cells, causing a change in their ability to reproduce. To work against infecting organisms, an antibiotic can be applied externally, such as to a cut on the skin’s surface, or internally, reaching the bloodstream within the body.
Antibiotics comes in several forms and given in different ways. One is topical application, which means “to a local area” such as on the skin, in the eyes, or on the mucous membrane and are available in the form of powders, ointments, or creams. The second method is oral in the form of tablets, liquid, and capsules are swallowed. The antibiotic is released in the small intestine to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Another method is parental. One form is an injection, which can be subcutaneous (under the skin), intramuscular (into a muscle), or intravenous (into a vein)
There are many techniques for the production of antibiotics. At one time al antibiotics were made from living organisms. This process, known as biosynthesis, is still used in the manufacture of some antibiotics. For example, molds organisms are placed in a medium (a substance used for the growth of micro-organisms) such as corn steep liquor to which milk sugar has been added. The mold organisms grow rapidly in this warm soup, producing penicillin as they do so. The penicillin is later extracted. Researchers have developed antibiotics with long half- lives (period of effectiveness), which allow taking the medication once in 24 hours instead of every few hours. The newer antibiotics are also more effective against a wider range of infections than were earlier drugs.
There are numerous varieties of antibiotics. The following are in common use like Penicillin, Cephalosporin’s (often given when a sensitivity to the former is known or suspected, in a patient) Aminoglycosides (used in the treatment of tuberculosis, bubonic plague, and other infections). Other antibiotics which are commonly used are Tetracycline’s, Macrolides, and Polypeptides Bacitracin. Another use of antibiotics is as additives to the feed of animals. Chickens and beef cattle, for example, can be fed with these additives for better weight gains and to speed their growth.
When one is exposed continually to an antibiotic for an illness of long duration, the targeted bacteria may develop its own defense against the drug. The bacteria may produce an enzyme that can destroy the drug, or the cell wall can become resistant to being broken by the action of the antibiotic. For example, one may be penicillin-fast, meaning penicillin is no longer able to help fight the infection and another type of antibiotic must be given. Allergic reactions to antibiotics are usually seen as rashes on the skin, but severe anemia, stomach disorders, and deafness can occasionally result. It was once thought that allergic reactions to antibiotics—penicillin in particular – were frequent and permanent.
The numerous antibiotics, which are now available offers a choice of treatment that can, in most instances, avoid allergy—causing drugs. It is well to remember that all drugs can cause both wanted and unwanted effects on the body. Current work in antibiotics is largely in the area of viruses. Although some antiviral are available, most have toxic effects so severe that they can be used only in life-threatening diseases where the negative effects are the lesser danger. Preliminary studies, however, are indicative of success in the development of safer antiviral drugs, and their use will enable us to make the world safe from the contagious diseases.