Antibiotics are a group of medicines that are used to treat infections caused by bacteria and certain parasites. They do not work against infections that are caused by viruses – for example, the common cold or flu. Antibiotics are normally only prescribed for more serious bacterial infections – for example, pneumonia. When prescribed, it is important to take the entire course of antibiotics which helps to prevent resistance developing to that antibiotic. Most side-effects of antibiotics are not serious – for example, diarrhoea, or mild stomach upset such as nausea. Although some people develop a serious allergy to some antibiotics, this is rare.
An antibiotic (or antibacterial) is something that kills bacteria or slows the growth of bacteria. They are often medicines used to cure diseases. Antibiotics do not harm people. Penicillin is a popular antibiotic. Antibiotics started to be produced in 1939. Antibiotics cannot stop a virus. Antibiotics are not the same thing as antibodies.
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What are antibiotics?
Antibiotics are a group of medicines that are used to treat infections caused by bacteria and certain parasites. They are sometimes called antibacterials. Antibiotics can be taken by mouth as liquids, tablets, or capsules, or they can be given by injection. Usually, people who need to have an antibiotic by injection are in hospital because they have a severe infection. Antibiotics are also available as creams, ointments, or lotions to apply to the skin to treat certain skin infections.
There are various antibiotics available and they come in various different brand names. Antibiotics are usually grouped together based on how they work. Each type of antibiotic only works against certain types of bacteria or parasites. This is why different antibiotics are used to treat different types of infection.
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The main types of antibiotics include:
- Penicillins – for example, penicillin V, flucloxacillin, and amoxicillin.
- Cephalosporins – for example, cefaclor, cefadroxil, cefalexin.
- Tetracyclines – for example, tetracycline, doxycycline, and minocycline.
- Aminoglycosides – for example, gentamicin, amikacin, and tobramycin.
- Macrolides – for example, erythromycin, azithromycin, and clarithromycin.
- Sulfonamides and trimethoprim – for example, co-trimoxazole.
- Metronidazole and tinidazole.
- Quinolones – for example, ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin, and norfloxacin.