Finish Your Antibiotics
I’m sorry, this isn’t Jojo at all but I think I’ve had it for today. As a pharmacy tech, I’m tired of hearing “Well, I started to feel better so I didn’t finish them.” I always knew this but now as a Molecular and Cellular Biology major, I not only know why but how. If you’re willing to heed my advice from the title, good; be on your way. If you need to know more, keep reading.
It’s widely known–to some extent–that not completing a regiment of antibiotics can result in resistant bacteria, or even super bacteria.
But in an infection, you already have resistant bacteria lurking. Not taking antibiotics doesn’t literally create resistant bacteria. So how, then, do the antibiotics take care of the resistant ones?
A lot of antibiotics aren’t bacterialcidal: They don’t actually kill them. Many inhibit growth by some mechanism depending if the bacteria is gram negative or gram positive. For example, penicillin inhibits growth by disrupting the formation of a peptidoglycan layer on gram positive bacteria. Others target the LPS layer on gram negative ones. This keeps the non resistant bacteria at bay. So what kills the resistant ones? Your immune system. Antibiotics buy time and energy for your immune system to recognize and destroy the resistant strains. Your immune system is intelligent in that sense and can form antibodies for new illnesses. It’s important to give your immune system this time because bacteria grow, mutate, and transfer genetic material at astonishing rates. If you wanted to look at a microcosm of the mechanics that go into evolution, you’ve got it with bacteria.
There are three methods aside from binary fission in which they transfer genes (I won’t get into the minutia of the form of informational material): Transformation, transduction and conjugation.
In transformation, a bacteria can pickup lost genes from a ruptured and dead cell.
Transduction is a way to transfer information via a viral vector.
In conjugation, genes are transferred through something called a pilus: It’s a bridge between two cells that pipes a copy of the information from one cell to another receptive cell and is the only method that doesn’t involve killing either cells. Resistant bacteria like to give around that resistance information like they’re burning a CD for their friends.
So please finish your antibiotics if you’ve been given them. It doesn’t matter if you’ve started to feel better or even great. Finish them.
(Hey science people, If I’ve missed anything or even got something wrong, help me out. There’s obviously lengthy stuff I’ve left out but I think I got the basics).