Why you should always finish a course of antibiotics

An antibiotic is a substance which targets growth of microorganisms and is used to treat some sort of infection.

The idea behind a course of antibiotics is that you have a constant intake at more or less regularly spaced intervals. This maintains a constant level of the antibiotic in your system, which will then battle the infection.

The problem lies with the fact that these bacteria are very good at:

  1. Feigning death; and
  2. Developing a resistance to antibiotics

The course should be calculated by your doctor to sufficiently deal with the problem, and completely exterminate the infection. So for example, if you take half the course and decide your infection is gone, and discontinue your intake of antibiotics, there is a slight chance that there is some of the infection remaining. The problem is that now the bacteria have a resistance to your antibiotic! So if allowed to return, the infection will be now untreatable or highly unresponsive to the original antibiotic.

Needless to say, this is a Bad Thing (tm), so you should always complete the entire course as prescribed by your doctor. Only ever discontinue your intake if you are absolutely sure your infection is gone, and then only after you have sought approval from your doctor.

Another reason for the more widespread development of resistive bacteria is the wide use of antibiotics these days. Especially in a hospital environment where the bacteria are constantly exposed to antibiotics and other drugs, they can soon build up a resistance. This then has the potential to get out of hand and reach the point where most of the conventional treatments in modern medicine are useless.

Its a scary thought, and perhaps we should tone down on the drugs we use to prevent this sort of thing happening!

(Interesting points which I do not have the time to fully research at the moment...)
m_turner says related topics:

  • the top 5 most deadly bacteria are immune to most antibotics.
  • Antibiotics are fed to cows as a staple!
  • The use of multiple antibiotics at the same time.
  • Bacterial gene transfer.