Immune | August 17, 2017 | Author: Naturopath



Antibiotics are potent medicines that fight certain types of infections and can save lives when used properly.

Before bacteria can multiply and cause symptoms, the body's immune system can usually kill them. Our white blood cells attack harmful bacteria and, even if symptoms do occur, our immune system can usually cope and fight off the infection.

There are occasions, however, when it is all too much, and some help is needed; this is where antibiotics are useful. 

Antibiotics generally work in one of two ways:

  • a bactericidal antibiotic (penicillin, for instance) kills the bacteria; interfering with either the formation of the bacterium's cell wall or its cell contents.
  • A bacteriostatic stops bacteria from multiplying.

AntibioticsWhen taking antibiotics, it is important to follow the directions carefully, and finish the antibiotic even if you feel better. If you stop taking the antibiotic before you complete the course, some bacteria may survive and re-infect you, and then the antibiotic that was originally prescribed to treat your bacterial infection is less likely to work as efficiently or effectively second time round for the same bacterial infection.

If antibiotics are overused or used incorrectly, there is a risk that the bacteria will become resistant - the antibiotic becomes less effective against that type of bacterium. A broad-spectrum antibiotic can be used to treat a wide range of infections. A narrow-spectrum antibiotic is only effective against a few types of bacteria. Some antibiotics attack aerobic bacteria, while others work against anaerobic bacteria. Aerobic bacteria need oxygen, anaerobic bacteria do not.

Antibiotics do not work against viruses 

Antibiotics 2An antibiotic is given for the treatment of an infection caused by bacteria. It is not effective against viruses. If you have an infection, it is important to know whether it is caused by bacteria or a virus. Most upper respiratory tract infections, such as the common cold and sore throats are caused by viruses - antibiotics do not work in treating viruses. If a virus is making you sick, taking antibiotics may do more harm than good.

Antibiotic Resistance

The first antibiotic was penicillin. Such penicillin-related antibiotics as ampicillin, amoxicillin, and benzylpenicillin are widely used today to treat a variety of infections. There is however worldwide concern that antibiotics are being overused. This overuse is contributing toward the growing number of bacterial infections that are becoming resistant to antibiotics.

The ECDC (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control) says that antibiotic resistance continues to be a serious public health threat worldwide and that an estimated 25,000 people die each year in Europe from antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.

New ECDC data shows that there has been a considerable increase over the last few years of combined resistance to multiple antibiotics in E. coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae in over one-third of European nations, so the use of carbapenems, (a major class of last-line antibiotics) has increased significantly from 2007 to 2010.

In 1945 Alexander Fleming, received a Nobel Prize and in his acceptance speech he said: "Then there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily under dose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug, make them resistant."

As predicted, by Alexander Flemming, (the man who discovered the first antibiotic) drug resistance is upon us. Nearly 65 years later, in 2009, more than 3 million kg of antibiotics were administered to human patients in the United States alone; in 2010, a staggering 13 million kg were administered to animals

In some cases, antibiotics may be given to prevent rather than treat an infection, as might be the case before surgery. This is called 'prophylactic' use of antibiotics. They are commonly used before bowel and orthopedic surgery.

Side Effects of Antibiotic Use

The most common side effects of antibiotics:

  • Diarrhea
  • Feeling sick
  • Fungal infections of the mouth, digestive tract, and vagina

Antibiotic use in the Future

The era of antibiotic use is coming to an end. In just a couple of generations the once thought miracle medicine is being beaten into ineffectiveness by the bacteria they were designed to eradicate. Not so long ago scientists hailed the end of infectious diseases, now the post antibiotic apocalypse is in sight.

For future generations there will need to be strategies in place to combat antibiotic resistance.

What Happens in conditions that  were once treatable with Antibiotics?

Antibiotics 1• Transplant surgery becomes virtually impossible. Organ recipients have to take immune-suppressing drugs for life to stop rejection of a new heart or kidney. Their immune systems cannot fight off life-threatening infections without antibiotics.

• Removing a burst appendix becomes a dangerous operation once again. Patients are routinely given antibiotics after surgery to prevent the wound becoming infected by bacteria. If bacteria get into the bloodstream, they can cause life-threatening septicaemia.

• Pneumonia becomes once more "the old man's friend". Antibiotics have stopped it being the mass-killer it once was, particularly among the old and frail, who would lapse into unconsciousness and often slip away in their sleep.

• Gonorrhea becomes hard to treat. Resistant strains are already on the rise. Without treatment, the sexually transmitted disease causes pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility and ectopic pregnancies.

• Tuberculosis becomes incurable – first we had TB, then multi-drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) and now there is XDR-TB (extremely drug resistant TB). TB requires very long courses (six months or more) of antibiotics. The very human tendency to stop taking or forget to take the drugs has contributed to the spread of resistance.

With No Antibiotics - What next?

So in a world without antibiotics and where bacterial infections will always be a problem the aim is to prevent infections from occurring in the first place.

antibiotics 4Nutritional and herbal medicines have always shown to be effective in preventing illnesses and treating the whole person not just the disease. Some examples of herbs that can be used to treat infection and support immunity are; Andrographis paniculata, Astragalus membranaceus, Echinacea purpurea, Eleutherococcus senticosus, Picrorrhiza kurroa, Uncaria tomentosa, Olea europaea, Hydrastis canadensis, Thymus vulgaris.

Some examples of nutrients that can support the immune system and prevent infection are; Vitamin C and bioflavanoids, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, iron, zinc.

If you happen to need an antibiotic an important measure is to take a broad spectrum probiotic afterwards. While the antibiotic can kill off the bacterial infection the antibiotic is not selective in wiping out just the bad guys and quite often once the course of antibiotics is finished your digestive tracts microbiome is in need of good bacteria.

It is a good idea to take a probiotic that has a prebiotic in there that way the right environment is set up in the digestive tract and the good bacteria are absorbed a lot better, this will improve the overall digestive microbiome and your bodies resistance to further infections.


Thomsen Michael; Phytotherapy Desk Reference third edition; Phytomedicine, 2005

Ventola Lee. The Antibiotic Resistance Crisis. Multimedia USA 2015 April; 40(4): 277-283

Phillips Keri. 2016 March; The Antibiotic dilemma, Why We’re Running out of Drugs to Treat Superbugs

Bosseley Sarah. 2010 August; Are you ready for a world without antibiotics?, The Guardian

Bennett Joan Wennstrom; Anitibiotics; Current uses and Future trends; What is an Antibiotic?; Pages: 1-18. DOI:

Pizzorno J E; The Clinician’s handbook of Natural Medicine; 2005 Churchill Livingstone

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