Antibiotics: An IntroductionAntibiotics, also known as antibacterials, are basically antimicrobial drugs used to eliminate or prevent bacterial infections and diseases. These either inhibit or kill bacterial growth. Certain antibiotics also possess antiprotozoal properties. It goes without saying that the discovery of antibiotics revolutionized the concept of medicine in the last century. Combined with vaccination, it led to the near eradication of dreaded diseases like tuberculosis and diphtheria in developed countries and increased the human lifespan by leaps and bounds. Moreover, they are now used widely to treat all types of non-bacterial soft tissue inflammations also and have proved successful in the sphere.
However, their efficiency and ease of access has led to overuse and this prompted bacteria to develop a resistance to them. Widespread problems have been reported on antibiotic and antimicrobial resistance and this has been classified by the , World Health Organization (WHO) as a serious threat to every region of the world with a lethal potential to affect anyone, of any age, in any country. Currently the 8th generation of antibiotics are in use and these include Meropenem, Cifran and Ofloxacin, to name a few. However, it needs to be borne in mind that antibiotics don’t work against viruses that cause influenza or the common cold generally brought about by viruses and which need to be treated with antivirals instead of antibiotics.
The term antibiotic in simpler terms, means opposing life. It generally refers to any substance that works against microbes and is synonymous with antimicrobial. There is also a difference between antibiotic and antibacterial. While antibiotics are used more as medicine, antibacterials find greater use in disinfectants and soaps.
What is Vaccination & How Does A Vaccine Work?
On the other hand, when we vaccinate an individual, we actually administer a vaccine or antigenic material to stimulate his immune system to develop an adaptive immunity to a particular harmful pathogen. Vaccines are empowered to ameliorate or prevent morbidity from a certain infection. Herd immunity results when a sufficiently large portion of a certain population gets vaccinated. Vaccination’s effectiveness has been widely verified. For instance, the influenza, HPV and chicken pox vaccines have proved to be extremely effective in preventing these infectious diseases and has even given birth to the concept of preventive medicine, now a super specialization.
Vaccination’s principal function is to prevent infectious diseases and increase immunity, This has led to the worldwide eradication of smallpox and restriction of measles, polio, rabies and tetanus.
How is it then that a vaccine works?
A vaccine’s active agent may remain intact but inactivated or non-infective or even attenuated with reduced infectivity forms of the causative pathogens. The pathogen’s purified components, for instance a virus’s outer coat protein that are found to be extremely immunogenic, increase the body’s immunity when injected into the human system. Toxoids are used for immunization from toxin-based diseases. The modification of the tetanospasmin toxin of the tetanus virus for example, removes its toxic effect but retains its immunogenic properties.
Success of Vaccination
Vaccination has eradicated Smallpox, which was not only contagious but deadly and caused deaths in 20–60% of infected adults and over 80% children. Before smallpox was finally eliminated in 1979, it had already killed a whopping 300–500 million people in the last century. This by itself shows how vaccination is a not only the product of great scientific thinking but a boon to mankind and good health as well. In common parlance, immunization and vaccination are somewhat similar. This is however, different from inoculation, which generally uses strong live pathogens.
In sum, the development and wide use of antibiotics and campaigns of mass vaccination have greatly reduced or even eradicated many diseases in multiple geographic regions the world over. And this has been one of science’s greatest gifts to mankind and has made living easy and healthier.