Many diseases are caused due to infection in the body by certain microorganisms (bacteria, fungus or viruses). Some examples of diseases caused by microbes are dysentry, pneumonia, typhoid, urinary tract infection, etc.
Antimicrobials are the chemicals, which are used to kill microorganisms (which has infected the body) without causing much damage to the body of the patient. Thus an antimicrobial is a chemical, which is capable of curing diseases caused by various microbes.
An ideal antimicrobial should kill disease-causing microbe and should not have any harmful effect on the patient. In fact there may not be any such antimicrobial which is totally safe and without any side effect.
The most common antimicrobials available are the sulhpa drugs and antibiotics.
Sulpha drugs are a group of drugs, derived from sulphanilamide. All the sulpha drugs are synthesized in laboratories. Some of them have been very useful in treaing diseases caused by a variety of bacteria. Some of the important sulpha drugs are sulphacetamide, sulphadiazine and sulphaguanidine, etc.
Sulpha drugs have been used for the treatment of pneumonia, sore throat, etc. These are less powerful than antibiotics. Therefore, now a days these have become less popular.
Antibiotics are the metabolic products produced by some microorganisms (mould or fungi). They inhibit growth and even kill disease causing microorganisms (like bacteria, fungi, etc) by inhibiting their life processes. Therefore they are referred to as antibiotics (anti means against and biotic means life).
Penicillin was the first antibiotic to be discovered. Alexander Fleming isolated penicillin in 1929 from a mould Pencillium notatum. Penicillin has been used for the treating diseases caused by several bacteria. It has been effectively used for treatment of pneumonia, bronchitis, sore throat, abscesses, etc.
Later on attempts have been made to improve the quality of penicillin. It has led to the discovery of different varieties of penicillin. For example, Penicillin G (also known as benzyl penicillin), penicillin F, penicillin K are the more common varieties of penicillin.
Ampicillin and amoxicillin are the semi-synthetic modifications of penicillin. In this case the metabolic product of mould is obtained and then some reactions are carried out to bring the desired changes in the antibiotic molecule to get ampicillin or amoxicillin.
Attempts are being made to discover better and better antibiotics. This search for finding better antibiotics is a never-ending process. Now a large number of antibiotics are available. Some examples are streptomycin and chloromycetin (chloroamphenicol) and tetracycline.
Streptomycin is used for the treatment of tuberculosis (TB). Chloromycetin is used for the treatment of typhoid. Tetracycline is used for the treatment of several diseases.
Broad-spectrum antibiotics are those antibiotics, which kill a wide range of disease-causing microorganisms. Broad-spectrum antibiotics can be used for the treatment of several diseases. For example, streptomycin, tetracycline and chloroamphenicol are broad-spectrum antibiotics. Narrow spectrum antibiotics are effective in the treatment of a few diseases.
Allergic Reactions of Antibiotics
Some people may show allergic reactions to some antibiotics. These reactions may be mild like rashes appearing on the skin or may be very serious and can even be fatal. You might have observed that a doctor gives a small dose of antibiotic by injection and then waits for some time to watch if there is any unwanted reaction. If there is no adverse (bad) reaction, then only the doctor gives the full dose of the antibiotic.