Facebook Pixel

How Do Antibiotics Work?

By HERWriter
Rate This
How Do Antibiotics Eliminate Bacterial Infection? Lev Dolgachov/PhotoSpin

Have you ever wondered how antibiotics actually make a urinary tract or strep throat infection go away?

Antibiotics were first developed in 1928 when a researcher named Alexander Fleming noticed that the mold Penicillium notatum had stopped the growth of Staphylococcus in a petri dish. Staphylococcus is a type of bacteria that can cause skin infections.

He found that penicillin could also stop the growth of other bacteria such as streptococcus, meningococcus and diphtheria bacillus.

Antibiotics only work against bacteria. They cannot treat a viral infection, so taking them to fight a cold or the flu will not work. It will only make it harder to treat future bacterial infections, due to antibiotic resistance from their overuse.

There are good bacteria that are important for the balance inside your body, and bad bacteria that grow on contaminated surfaces. There are also times when good bacteria that belongs in one place of your body gets a foothold and can grow where it doesn’t belong.

For example, E. coli is supposed to live in your colon. When it finds its way up the urethra to your bladder, then you can develop a urinary tract infection.

Bacteria are classified into two groups: Gram-positive or Gram-negative. This differentiation helps define the type of cell wall the bacteria have. In the lab they can test for which type of bacteria it is by using stain and viewing the bacteria under a microscope.

After they have identified the bacteria, then they can test to see which antibiotic can best fight the bacteria. This is called testing for the bacteria’s sensitivity.

All antibiotics work by one of two methods:

1) Bactericidal antibiotics interfere with the building of the bacteria’s cell wall so they directly kill the bacteria. Penicillin works this way.

2) Bacteriostatic antibiotics interfere in the bacteria’s ability to multiply. Tetracycline is this type of antibiotic as it blocks the bacteria’s ability to make a certain type of protein it needs.

Add a CommentComments

There are no comments yet. Be the first one and get the conversation started!

Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

Infections of the Digestive Tract

Get Email Updates

Infections of the Digestive Tract Guide

Have a question? We're here to help. Ask the Community.


Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!