ANTIBIOTICS - COMMON INFORMATION (other topics)
Antibiotics are chemical compounds used to kill or inhibit the growth of infectious organisms. Originally the term antibiotic referred only to organic compounds, produced by bacteria or molds, that are toxic to other microorganisms. The term is now used loosely to include synthetic and semisynthetic organic compounds. Antibiotic refers generally to antibacterials; however, because the term is loosely defined, it is preferable to specify compounds as being antimalarials, antivirals, or antiprotozoals. All antibiotics share the property of selective toxicity: They are more toxic to an invading organism than they are to an animal or human host. Penicillin is the most well-known antibiotic and has been used to fight many infectious diseases, including syphilis, gonorrhea, tetanus, and scarlet fever. Another antibiotic, streptomycin, has been used to combat tuberculosis.
Although the mechanisms of antibiotic action were not scientifically understood until the late 20th century, the principle of using organic compounds to fight infection has been known since ancient times.
Since antibiotics came into general use in the 1950s, they have transformed the patterns of disease and death. Many diseases that once headed the mortality tables—such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, and septicemia—now hold lower positions. Surgical procedures, too, have been improved enormously, because lengthy and complex operations can now be carried out without a prohibitively high risk of infection. Chemotherapy has also been used in the treatment or prevention of protozoal and fungal diseases, especially malaria, a major killer in economically developing nations.
Serious infections with multidrug-resistant pathogens have been associated with significant morbidity, mortality, and healthcare-related costs. Several interventions to decrease the clinical and financial impact of antibiotic resistance have been proposed, including (but not limited to) optimizing antibiotic selection and dosing, strict adherence to infection control practices, and use of antimicrobial combinations.
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