Saturday, September 23, 2023

Are Antibiotics Effective Against Viruses

What Are Antibiotics Used To Treat

What causes antibiotic resistance? – Kevin Wu

Antibiotics are used for treating infections caused by bacteria. Sometimes its difficult to determine if your infection is caused by bacteria or a virus because the symptoms are often very similar.

Your healthcare professional will evaluate your symptoms and conduct a physical exam to determine the cause of your infection. In some cases, they may request a blood or urine test to confirm the cause of infection.

Some common bacterial infections include:

What Antibiotics Kill Covid

  • There are no antibiotics that kill the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the virus which causes COVID-19.
  • Antibiotics work on bacteria to kill or slow their growth.
  • COVID-19 is caused by a virus so you need an antiviral medicine to slow the virus’s development.

Click here for information on COVID-19: Treatments and Vaccines

What Are Germs And What Illnesses Do They Cause

Germs are in the air we breathe and on everything we touch. Some germs can live for days outside the body.

The two most common types of germs are called bacteria and viruses. Strep throat and skin infections are examples of illnesses caused by bacteria colds and flus are examples of illnesses caused by viruses.

When germs enter the body, a fever may result. Fever is a sign that the body is fighting to kill these germs.

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What Is The Difference Between Viruses And Bacteria

To understand how antibiotics work and how effective they are against various pathogenic microorganisms, you need to know how they attack. Are antibiotics effective against all pathogens?


Bacteria are unicellular microorganisms or groups of cells with a prokaryotic structure without the cell nucleus surrounded by a membrane. They can have various shapes, by which we can distinguish them, e.g. spherical, rod-shaped or spiral.

Some bacteria can combine with each other, creating loose, specific systems . Certain groups of bacteria are essential to humans such as those of the gut flora they are involved in the production of vitamins and hormones and are generally beneficial to human health.

These include Lactobacillus , found in yoghurts and probiotics. Conversely, other groups such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis are highly harmful.


In turn, viruses are an infectious agent and need a host organism to survive. They are small infectious particles and are not considered living organisms. Viruses infect all life forms and are themselves incapable of carrying out life processes outside the host cell.

Therefore, viruses are resistant to antibiotics they are living organisms. Both types of pathogens are contagious and cause disease, but they are two very different types of microorganisms. Due to their structure, antibiotics are effective against bacteria, not viruses.

How Do I Protect Myself

Antibiotics are useless against viral infections: Overuse can cause ...

Avoid getting infections by taking care of your body and practicing good hygiene, such as regular handwashing. Also, make sure to only take antibiotics when necessary and prescribed. Taking antibiotics when not needed can lead to antibiotic-resistant infections in the future.

Do not take medication not prescribed to you. If a medication is prescribed to you, take it as directed. Follow the instructions on the label and as explained by your pharmacist. Ask questions if needed, and finish the medication unless otherwise instructed.

Use this infographic to help you remember when antibiotics are useful.

If you’re feeling under the weather, make an appointment with your primary care physician or visit urgent care.

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What Illnesses Are Caused By Viruses And Cant Be Treated By Antibiotics

Viruses cause most upper respiratory infections, which include head colds, sore throats, bronchitis, and sinus infections. Viruses cannot be treated by antibiotics.

The common cold and flu do not respond to antibiotics. Less than 10% of acute bronchitis cases are caused by bacteria. Most cases of acute ear infections also resolve without antibiotics.

Sore throats are usually caused by viruses as well. Antibiotics are not recommended unless you have strep throat. Only about 15% to 30% of sore throat cases in children and up to 10% of cases in adults are due to strep throat.

Almost all cases of acute bacterial sinusitis resolve without antibiotics.

The bottom line: Taking antibiotics for most acute upper respiratory tract infections does little or no good, and the downsides are real.

Curing A Viral Infection

Antibiotics are useless against viral infections. This is because viruses are so simple that they use their host cells to perform their activities for them. So antiviral drugs work differently to antibiotics, by interfering with the viral enzymes instead.Antiviral drugs are currently only effective against a few viral diseases, such as influenza, herpes, hepatitis B and C and HIV but research is ongoing. A naturally occurring protein, called interferon , can now be produced in the laboratory and is used to treat hepatitis C infections.

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Why Dont Antibiotics Work On Viruses

Viruses are different to bacteria they have a different structure and a different way of surviving. Viruses dont have cell walls that can be attacked by antibiotics instead they are surrounded by a protective protein coat.

Unlike bacteria, which attack your bodys cells from the outside, viruses actually move into, live in and make copies of themselves in your bodys cells. Viruses can’t reproduce on their own, like bacteria do, instead they attach themselves to healthy cells and reprogram those cells to make new viruses. It is because of all of these differences that antibiotics dont work on viruses.

How Can I Protect My Family And Myself From Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotics, Antivirals, and Vaccines

There is a way to protect yourself and others from resistant bacteria, and that is to respect antibiotics and take them only when necessary for a bacterial infection. Here are some useful tips:

  • When you see a doctor, don’t demand antibiotics. Understand that antibiotics are used for bacterial infections, not symptoms of a cold or flu virus.
  • If a doctor prescribes antibiotics, use them as prescribed. Take all of the antibiotics as directed and don’t save some for future use.
  • Don’t share antibiotics with others.
  • Preventing the flu in the first place may help you avoid getting sick altogether. Get a flu shot each year. Also, make sure you wash your hands frequently and thoroughly to prevent spreading germs.

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    What If I Overuse Them

    Bacteria find ways to resist being killed. They’re survivors. Bacteria can build up resistance if antibiotics are overused. When resistance develops, antibiotics may not work as well, or may stop working completely.

    “Some bacteria have become so resistant that they can’t be treated with most antibiotics,” says Tran. “These are sometimes called superbugs, and they can be very difficult, if not impossible, to treat.”

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    When Antibiotics Arent Needed

    Antibiotics DO NOT work on viruses, such as those that cause colds, flu, or COVID-19.

    Antibiotics also are not needed for many sinus infections and some ear infections.

    When antibiotics arent needed, they wont help you, and the side effects could still cause harm. Common side effects of antibiotics can include:

    • Rash
    • Yeast infections

    More serious side effects can include:

    • Clostridioides difficile infection , which causes severe diarrhea that can lead to severe colon damage and death
    • Severe and life-threatening allergic reactions, such as wheezing, hives, shortness of breath, and anaphylaxis

    Antibiotic use can also lead to the development of antibiotic resistance.

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    Can I Treat A Cold With An Antibiotic

    Using an antibiotic for a virus, like a cold or the flu:

    • will not cure the virus
    • wont help you feel better
    • will not prevent others from catching your virus
    • will be a waste of your money.

    Many bacterial infections do require an antibiotic however, the type of antibiotic will vary based on the type of infection. An antibiotic either prevents bacterial growth or kills bacteria outright .

    It is very important not to share your antibiotics with someone else. For example, amoxicillin can be used to treat a bacterial strep throat but will not work for some common pneumonias or bladder infections.

    While you may mean well if you share your medicine, the bacteria causing someone else’s infection may not be susceptible to your prescribed antibiotic. In turn, those bacteria may not die and that person’s infection can worsen. Plus, the person you share your antibiotic with may experience side effects or serious allergic reactions from your drug. Overall, sharing any medicine with someone else is risky business.

    Are Antibiotics Effective Against Pathogenic Viruses The Answer Is No

    Creating hybrid virus against antibiotic resistant virus

    Most infections in infants and young children are viral in nature and cannot be treated with antibiotics. In most cases, viruses can cause common diseases such as influenza, measles, bronchitis, chickenpox, and most of the angina and gastroenteritis.

    Frequent nasopharyngeal and intestinal infections are also mostly viral. On the other hand, bacteria can cause more dangerous infectious diseases such as rubella, pneumonia or otitis, superinfection of wounds, salmonella.

    There is also a wider group of diseases that can be bacterial in origin: strep throat, conjunctivitis and meningitis.

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    The Difference Between Viruses And Bacteria

    To understand what antibiotics do and how effective they are against viruses, you need to know what they attack. Do antiobiotics attack viruses or bacteria?

    Bacteria are prokaryotic microorganisms. Theyre usually classified by their shape: cocci, bacilli, budding and appendaged bacteria, and others. Some are beneficial to man, like Lactobacillus, and others arent, like the Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

    On the other hand, viruses are an infectious agent and need a host to survive. This is why theyre immune to them. Both are infectious but theyre two very different kinds of microorganisms. Because of their structures, theyre effective against bacteria, not against viruses.

    Characteristics Of The Bacterium

    Most bacteria, apart from the cocci variety, move around with the aid of small lashing tails or by whipping their bodies from side to side. Under the right conditions, a bacterium reproduces by dividing in two. Each daughter cell then divides in two and so on, so that a single bacterium can bloom into a population of some 500,000 or more within just eight hours.If the environmental conditions dont suit the bacteria, some varieties morph into a dormant state. They develop a tough outer coating and await the appropriate change of conditions. These hibernating bacteria are called spores. Spores are harder to kill than active bacteria because of their outer coating.

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    Immunisation Against Viral Infection Is Not Always Possible

    It is possible to vaccinate against many serious viral infections such as measles, mumps, hepatitis A and hepatitis B. An aggressive worldwide vaccination campaign, headed by the World Health Organization , managed to wipe out smallpox. However, some viruses such as those that cause the common cold are capable of mutating from one person to the next. This is how an infection with essentially the same virus can keep dodging the immune system. Vaccination for these kinds of viruses is difficult, because the viruses have already changed their format by the time vaccines are developed.

    What Do I Need To Know About Antibiotics

    Antibiotics just dont work on the flu virus. (15s)

    Did you know:

    • Antibiotics are among the most commonly prescribed drugs. However, up to 50% of all the antibiotics prescribed for people are not needed nor as effective as hoped.
    • The overuse of antibiotics is the single most important factor that has led to antibiotic resistance.
    • Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people get serious infections with bacteria that are resistant to one or more of the antibiotics designed to treat those infections.
    • At least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these antibiotic-resistant infections. Almost 250,000 people each year need hospital care for treatment of Clostridium difficile infections. This infection is very difficult to treat. The use of antibiotics was the main reason why the illness developed. At least 14,000 people die each year in the United States from C. difficile infections. Many of these infections could have been prevented.

    The overuse or inappropriate use of antibiotics gives bacteria a chance to adapt. When this happens, the antibiotics no longer work as well to treat the infection the bacteria become resistant to antibiotics.

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    Common Illnesses Caused By Viruses

    Most viral illnesses do not need special medication and are self-limiting, meaning your own immune system will kick in and fight off the illness. However, this can take time a cough and cold can last from 7 to 10 days and the flu or COVID might keep you down for 2 to 3 weeks or more.

    If you have tested positive for COVID-19, be sure to contact your doctor for further advice. Follow all local, state and federal mandates for quarantine and mask wearing.

    If you come down with a viral illness, you should rest, drink plenty of fluids and treat symptoms such as fever or aches and pains. Treatment options include proper doses of pain and fever relievers like over-the-counter acetaminophen or ibuprofen, or as directed by your doctor. If you are diagnosed with a viral illness such as a cough, cold or sore throat, and your symptoms worsen or do not clear up within 10 days, be sure to contact your doctor.

    Signs And Symptoms Of A Viral Infection

    Common symptoms of viral diseases include flu-like symptoms and malaise. These symptoms can appear within 1-3 days after being infected.

    • Fever
    • Runny nose and sore throat
    • Headaches and body aches

    Presence of one of these symptoms does not dictate that you have either a viral or bacterial infection. A thorough evaluation by your doctor is recommended before starting or stopping any prescribed medication.

    Although antibiotics are useful for treating bacterial infections, they are worthless against viral infections. Antibiotics can actually make colds worse by killing beneficial bacteria and creating an environment more favorable to the cold virus.

    If prescribed, take antibiotics responsibly. They are powerful in fighting certain infections, but they are not a cure-all.

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    Final Notes: Are Antibiotics Effective Against All Viruses

    Antibiotics arent effective against viruses. Only use them against bacteria and other pathogenic microorganisms. Abusing antibiotics can create superbugs and also kill bacteria that our bodies need.

    The World Health Organization has made resistance diseases a public health emergency. The 2015 World Health Assembly created an action plan that includes:

    • Improving awareness and understanding of antimicrobial resistance.
    • Strengthening surveillance and research.
    • Reducing the incidence of infection.
    • Optimizing the use of antimicrobial medicines.

    Sometimes the cure causes the disease.

    Balthasar Gracian

    So What Can I Do About My Cold Or Flu


    You mightve heard your doctor use the phrase that a virus has to run its course. This means waiting for your bodys immune system to fight off the viral infection by itself by activating an immune response.

    While a virus runs its course there are ways you can speed it up or make it less severe. Getting plenty of bed rest, drinking lots of fluids and taking over-the-counter medication to relieve symptoms will help. This is generally enough for otherwise healthy people. However, in some cases, your doctor may prescribe antiviral medications to help reduce the severity and length of your illness. This is most effective at the onset of a virus.

    If you have a cold or the flu, you should visit your doctor or call 13 HEALTH if you have more serious symptoms, such as trouble breathing, chest pain, a sore throat that hurts to swallow, a cough, headaches, sinus pain, persistent vomiting , fever , feelings of confusion or coloured phlegm.

    There are also steps you should take to protect others. If you have a cold, flu or virus, stay at home and avoid contact with others. This means no work, no school and no day care. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, or you could use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser. Make sure you cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or a flexed elbow. Stay 1.5 meters away from others, so you dont spread germs.

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    Bacteria: Friends And Foes

    Bacteria are single-celled microorganisms . The human body hosts trillions of microbes, with an estimated 10,000 bacterial species living in and on the surface of our bodies. No two people not even twins have identical combinations of bacteria , which begin to develop at birth, particularly if we were born through the microbe-rich birth canal.

    For a long time, scientists focussed only on infection-causing bacteria and thought that non-pathogenic bacteria were, at best, unimportant. However, microbial cells outnumber our human cells by about ten to one and scientists are now beginning to understand that they play a significant role in our wellness, especially within the immune and digestive systems. In digestion, for example, there are bacteria that feed on foods that we cannot digest with our human cells alone. The waste products of these bacteria are nutrients for our human systems. Some of these non-pathogenic bacteria also engage in constant battle with pathogenic bacteria, helping to maintain a healthy microbiome, keeping the numbers of bad bacteria to a minimal level.

    Antibiotics Fight Bacterial Infections

    Antibiotics typically are effective against bacteria but not against viruses. Therefore, antibiotics do not help in viral illnesses such as mononeucleosis, flu and colds. Studies have shown that the vast majority of infectious diseases in college-age patients are viral rather than bacterial infections. Even bronchitis is most commonly viral in this age group. Although researchers are attempting to develop new categories of drugs to combat viral diseases, few drugs are currently available.

    Health care providers use clinical history, examination and laboratory tests to distinguish between viral and bacterial infections. Providers may use cultures from the throat, sputum, urine, blood or wound to identify the bacteria along with its antibiotic sensitivity. This information helps them choose an antibiotic that will be effective.

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