Antibiotics are a group of drugs that we all are quite familiar with. They have revolutionized our world. Since the discovery of the first antibiotic Penicillin from a mold named Penicillium chrysogenum by Sir Alexander Fleming in 1928 it has become possible to treat diseases caused by bacteria which were without an effective cure earlier.

It is quite unfathomable for us to imagine people dying in large numbers from diseases such as pneumonia or tuberculosis which can be effectively treated nowadays, thanks to the pros of the antibiotics; but it did happen a century back. So the discovery of antibiotics along with vaccination was nothing short of a miracle for the human race.

But like all good things in the world, there are some cons attached to antibiotics in addition to the pros. Everything should be taken in moderation if we want it to be truly effective and sadly that is not always the case with antibiotics. Easy availability, low cost and broad spectrum effectiveness of most antibiotics led to their overuse by the doctors which certainly contributed too many of its cons.

Antibiotics are also known as antibacterial drugs because they kill bacteria and not viruses. So they should only be prescribed to cure diseases caused by bacteria and not for diseases such as flu and influenza which are caused by viruses. But some doctors used it indiscriminately.

This over enthusiasm of doctors led to overuse of antibiotics which caused various adverse effects including the development of resistance. This caused a rift between people; those who swear by antibiotics and those who staunchly oppose it. Neither of those attitudes is actually healthy. Even though we have to admit that the pros of antibiotics far outweigh the cons but it does not, in anyway, means that it should be taken indiscriminately. To that purpose, we are going to tell you all the pros and cons associated with the use of antibiotics.

Pros and Cons of Antibiotics

Pros of Antibiotics

There are many pros of antibiotics. Those pros certainly include effectiveness of antibiotics to cure various problems. Some of the pros of antibiotics are:

Antibiotics Are Highly Effective

As mentioned earlier, one of the pros of antibiotics is its effectiveness. It can be used to cure infections from simples ones to that which have progressed to quite complicated diseases. It can also be used to treat a variety of infections such as pneumonia, tonsillitis etc.

Antibiotics Are Low Cost

Low cost of antibiotics also plays an important role in its popularity. It is easily affordable by rich and poor alike and it is one of the pros of antibiotics. Its low cost also makes antibiotics desirable to be kept in bulk in government hospitals and community centers which do not have a high budget. It is also affordable by people who have no health insurance.

Antibiotics Have Fewer Side Effects

Even though there are some side effects associated with antibiotics, most of them aren't dangerous and easily mitigated. Hence they are more commonly used to treat diseases than other alternatives. This is one of the pros of antibiotics.

Antibiotics Kill Bacteria

Antibiotics do not just restrict the disease but kill bacteria and thus eliminates the disease completely if taken in proper doses and for proper time period.

Broad Spectrum Antibiotics

Use of broad spectrum antibiotics is another of its pros. These broad spectrum antibiotics can be used to treat diseases even if we do not know for sure which bacteria is causing the disease while we are waiting the lab results which can take up to a few days. This way there is no delay in the treatment and thus preventing the disease from spreading any further.

Narrow Spectrum Antibiotics

Even though there are broad spectrum antibiotics available and they certainly have their uses, there are narrow spectrum antibiotics available too; which can be used for a particular type of microbe or bacteria when we already know the causal organism for that particular disease.

Antibiotics to Prevent Surgery

Antibiotics are also used to treat problems such as non-complicated acute appendicitis so that surgery could be avoided. That definitely is one of its pros.

Antibiotics as a preventive Measure

Antibiotics are also used as a preventive measure in various situations such as in AIDS patients to prevent the occurrence of pneumonia and other bacterial diseases due to their weakened immune system or to prevent the onset of various bacterial diseases in people who are taking immunosuppressive drugs.

Antibiotics for Surgical Cases

The use of instruments and the incision that is made during surgery increases the risk of infection in patients. Antibiotics are generally administered to reduce the risk of infection which is one of its pros.

Antibiotics Stop Progression of Diseases

Administering antibiotics to patients with less severe infections can prevent those infections from progressing into more severe problems. For example if you give antibiotics to a patient suffering from common cold, the risk of its progression to pneumonia reduces a lot and becomes negligible.

Antibiotics are Easy to Administer

Antibiotics are actually very easy to administer. They come in a variety of packaging such as tablets or capsules which can be taken orally. Apart from that they can also be injected in a patient, which definitely comprises one of the pros of antibiotics. They can also be applied topically as ear or eye drops etc.

Antibiotics Saves Lives

The most important of the pros of antibiotics is that it saves thousands of lives across the globe daily. As mentioned earlier, it can save people from diseases which use to take lives in larger numbers a century back.

Cons of Antibiotics

As many pros as antibiotics have, there are some cons attached to them as well, some of which could be easily avoided if we just pay attention and take some precautions. These cons are mentioned below:

Development of Resistance

One of the most problematic cons of antibiotics includes development of resistance in bacteria against a certain antibiotic. It usually happens if we overuse the antibiotics or if we do not take the antibiotics for proper duration which causes some of the bacteria to remain alive in the body. These bacteria, over a certain period of time develop resistance against a particular type of antibiotic. According to World Health Organization (WHO) this is a serious threat.

Allergic Reactions

Allergic reaction caused by antibiotics is also one of its cons. These reactions are usually mild but can be quite extreme as well. Some of the milder ones are fever and nausea but it can also lead to dermatitis if it becomes extreme enough.

Anaphylaxis

One of those serious allergic reactions caused by antibiotics includes anaphylaxis. It leads to swelling of tongue and throat, shortness of breath, vomiting, headache, itchiness, rashes etc. It is quite serious and can lead to death as well.

Diarrhea

One of the cons of antibiotics is that it can cause diarrhea. This is due to a change in the composition of the species of microbes living in the intestines. It may increase the number of harmful pathogenic bacteria such as Clostridium difficile which can lead to diarrhea.

Yeast Infection of Vagina

Just like it causes a disruption of intestinal population of microbes, antibiotics can also cause an increase in the yeast population of the vulvo-vaginal area. This yeast usually belongs to Genus Candida which causes infection in women.

Increases Obesity

If a lot of antibiotics were prescribed to children or given to people at a young age then it can lead to obesity later on in life. It leads to an increase in weight as well as larger bones in the adults.

Interaction with Birth Control Pills

It is believed that antibiotics interfere with the functioning of contraceptive or birth control pills and reduce their effectiveness leading to their failure in some cases. But according to various studies, this risk is very small and is about 1% only.

Interaction with Alcohol

One of the cons of antibiotics is their interaction with alcohol. While moderate drinking does not decrease the effectiveness of most antibiotics considerably; it does cause quite a lot of reduction of effectiveness in some antibiotics. Apart from that, there are some antibiotics which cause various side effects if consumed along with alcohol.

Interaction with Other Drugs

Antibiotics also interact with some drugs other than birth control pills. For example if quinolone antibiotic is taken with a systemic corticosteroid it may cause damage to the tendons.

We are all familiar with the saying "that which doesn't hurt us, makes us stronger". It is actually true in this case as well. We should not take antibiotics indiscriminately and should only consume them when it is absolutely necessary. This way there would not be a risk of development of resistance against antibiotics.

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Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: July 5, 2017

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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