How do antibiotics work to fight bacterial infections?

Prakhar Tyagi

, Health A2Z

 Antibiotics work to fight bacterial infections


Antibiotics (also known as antibacterial) are antimicrobial drugs used for the prevention and treatment of bacterial infections. They work by killing or inhibiting the growth of bacteria and possess antiprotozoal activity.


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Antibiotics are ineffective against viruses like influenza or common cold and antiviral drugs. Several types of generic antibiotics are:

  • Amoxicillin


  • Doxycycline


  • Cephalexin


And also have classes such as:


  • Penicillins


  • Tetracyclines


  • Quinolones


Medicinal Use of Antibiotics


These are used for the treatment and prevention of bacterial infection and protozoan infections.

They are usually limited to people with the weakened immune system, those who are taking immunosuppressive drugs, and cancer patients.

Their use in surgical helps in the prevention of infection of incisions made and has an important role in dental antibiotic prophylaxis in preventing bacteremia and infective endocarditis.


Side-Effects of Antibiotics


These are screened for negative effects before their approval for clinical use, and then considered safe and tolerated.

Their side-effects are mainly based on their type and reflect the pharmacological or toxicological properties which involve hypersensitivity or allergic reactions.


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Common side-effects such as diarrhea, tendon damage (interaction with other drugs) also have a correlation with obesity.

Antibiotics work against bacterial infections for the treatment of infections like throat infections, bladder infections, and skin infections.

They do not work against viral infections such as cold, coughs, influenza and gastroenteritis.

Treatment of bacteria depends upon its type including Gram-positive like Streptococcus and Gram-negative like Escherichia coli.



Mechanism of Antibiotics to Fight Against Bacterial Infections



Antibiotics first select the target bacteria for its complete destruction by synthesis of folic acid or cell walls or/on bacterium including protein or DNA replication.

Usually, the cell wall is produced by bacteria which is composed of macromolecule known as peptidoglycan, made of short peptides and amino sugars.

Penicillin, an antibiotic, used for the prevention of transpeptidation, or cross-linking step which results in the bursting of fragile cell wall and killing bacterium.

Bacteria can also destruct by targeting their metabolic pathways. Sulfonamides, like sulfamethoxazole, helps in the synthesis of folic acid that results in the complete destruction of the bacterium.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria can’t be killed or fully inhibited by an antibiotic.






Antibiotics are specific for the type of bacteria being treated and can’t be interchanged between infections. These are usually safe with few side effects.

But most antibiotics and drugs can lead to life-threatening effects for patients with kidney or liver disease, pregnant lady, and breastfeeding women.

People should avoid antibiotics in cases related to sore throats, flu or acute sinusitis, and cough and cold.


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