Antibiotics are a class of drug that are designed to prevent the replication of various types of bacteria which have been recognized as dangerous to humans. These bacteria can cause serious infections and are responsible for hospitalizations, increased morbidity and at times mortality. The advent of this class of drugs has revolutionized the field of medical practice and saved millions of lives worldwide.
There is, however, a serious down side to this story. Over time, bacteria that were once susceptible to these drugs have been able to evolve into new strains that have differing DNA. These newer strains have become antibiotic resistant so the drugs which once prevented them from replicating no longer work. For these types of bacteria, this is not a good thing, as they have become very powerful and capable of inflicting a great deal of harm to anyone who comes into contact with them.
The reason this scenario has happened is because of the overreliance upon antibiotic drugs in clinical practice. Most of the upper respiratory infections which cause the characteristic sore throat, cough, and runny nose symptoms are not attributed to bacteria. The vast majority are caused from various types of viruses—the most common family being rhinoviruses. The unfortunate part of this is that there is no drug which can be used to treat this common cold-type problem. Antibiotics do not help and should not be recommended for use in these cases.
Providing antibiotic drugs to people who do not need them can also cause a disruption in the normal gut flora that lines the digestive tract as these drugs kill these “good guys” as well. This can cause many different types of health problems later on.
According to a new study published in the Journal of The American Medical Association, only about 10% of the sore throats cases presenting to a physician are due to bacteria in which case antibiotics like penicillin would be the most appropriate choice for treatment. However, researchers looked at data from 8,191 cases of sore throat over a period between the years 1997-2010 and also evaluated the corresponding prescribing rates.
Prior to this study, the researchers remarked that there was a definite decline in the prescription of antibiotics for sore throat in 1993 from 80% to 70%. However, the present study indicated that physicians were prescribing antibiotics 60% of the time for a patient presenting with a sore throat, which greatly exceeds the 10% recommendation.
What this study also suggested is that physicians were commonly using antibiotics which were stronger, more expensive and designed for a broader spectrum of bacterial action. This is exactly the pattern of antibiotic use that needs to be halted.
My advice to you is to only accept antibiotic treatments when a bacteria has been isolated as the cause of your throat infection. The common cold and flu cases which cause the greatest degree of unpleasant symptoms and malaise within our schools, workplaces and homes are caused from viruses. I have found that larger doses of vitamin C, the herb echinacea, adequate hydration, isolation, and rest is all that is required to control the symptoms and prevent the spread of viruses.
Source(s) for Today’s Article:
Harrison, L. “Antibiotics Still Overprescribed for Sore Throats, Bronchitis,”Medscape web site, October 4, 2013; http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/812109, last accessed October 8, 2013.
Barnett. M., et al.,“Antibiotic Prescribing to Adults With Sore Throat in the United States,1997-2010,”JAMA Intern Med. Published online October 03, 2013.