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Your Healthy Family: What are antibiotics and how do they work?

To understand the problem of antibiotics becoming ineffective we first need to understand the basics of what they are. To understand the problem of antibiotics becoming ineffective we first need to understand the basics of what they are.
COLORADO SPRINGS -

Bacteria and diseases continue becoming resistant to antibiotics.  To fully understand the issue it’s good to know the basics of what are antibiotics, and how do they help our bodies fight disease.  

Alex Novin is a Infectious Disease Clinical Pharmacist with UCHealth Memorial, who says his job isn’t the usual dispensing prescriptions from behind a pharmacy counter.  "I'm the subject matter expert on drugs that treat infections, I also co-chair our antimicrobial stewardship committee, what that all boils down to is I try to make sure that we use drugs appropriately."

Alex says to understand the problem of antibiotics becoming ineffective we first need to understand the basics of what they are.  “Antibiotics are drugs that are able to treat disease, by slowing down or killing bacteria.  There are other drugs for other types of microorganisms, so there's antivirals for viruses, there's antifungals for fungal infections, together they all make up anti-microbial drugs.  One thing I'd like to point out is there's good and bad bacteria in your body.  The good bacteria, we don't want to get rid of but antibiotics typically will take out both the good and the bad when we're using them to treat infections caused by the bad bacteria.”

Alex explains that “Antibiotic resistance is what happens when the bacteria that we're trying to use the antibiotics for, aren't killed or slowed down by those drugs anymore.  The drugs are then no longer effective.”

Antibiotic resistance is something that's been in the headlines over the last several years, but Alex points out it's an issue doctors and pharmacists have dealt with for a long time.  “This is a problem that's been around for a very long time.  The bacteria works a lot faster than we do, so by the time we get a new drug to market the bacteria might have already started to learn how to become resistant to it.”

In our next Your Healthy Family we'll talk more about why effective antibiotics are important beyond helping us when we come down with a bug.  Also Alex will share some steps we can all take to help swing the tide in the fight against antibiotic resistant bacteria.

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