What are the Pros and Cons of Broad-Spectrum Antibiotics?

Broad-spectrum antibiotics are effective in killing many different kinds of bacteria. They can be vital in an emergency situation when there isn’t time to determine the type of bacteria causing a serious infection. In this case, a broad-spectrum antibiotic may be the best choice for immediate, life-saving treatment. Some strains of bacteria, however, have developed immunity to these drugs, and are difficult to eradicate.

When antibiotics were first developed in the 1940s, they were viewed as miracle drugs. Diseases that used to be fatal, such as strep throat, staph infections, pneumonia, and tuberculosis, were cured by antibiotics. Even a simple bacterial infection stemming from a small cut or scrape could be fatal before antibiotics came into use.

Antibiotics eventually became so popular that people started using them in other areas besides medicine. Farmers started to use antibiotics to stimulate the growth of livestock. Broad-spectrum antibiotics were also used to control the growth of fungi and bacteria that could ruin grain and fruit. Antibiotics were administered to healthy animals to prevent infection, and the drugs entered the human food chain. As the use of these antibiotics increased, drug resistant bacteria developed and spread.

Since bacteria are adaptable, they were able to develop a resistance to antibiotics. An increased use of antibiotics in hand soaps, wipes, and other nonmedical uses contributed to the problem of resistance. The resistance became part of the bacterial cell structure, so new generations of bacteria that had never been exposed to an antibiotic were created with a built-in immunity. This process led to the development of what are often called super strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. These super bugs sometimes cause incurable infections, which can be fatal.

The development of resistant strains of bacteria isn’t the only problem caused by broad-spectrum antibiotics. Since these drugs target a wide range of microorganisms, their effectiveness isn’t limited to the problematic strains that cause infection. Intestinal flora, which aid in digestion, are also killed by broad-spectrum antibiotics. This has an adverse effect on digestive health and can lower a patient's immune system.

It is indisputable that broad-spectrum antibiotics are valuable drugs in the medical arsenal. Their use has saved many lives that would otherwise have been lost. The potential drawbacks can be minimized by limiting their use only to those cases that are medically necessary. If this is done, it may be possible to prevent the development of new super bugs so that more infections can be cured.

Ad

You might also Like

Recommended

Discuss this Article

cloudel
Post 4

What scares me about using antibacterial soap or hand sanitizers is that bacteria that can become immune to it can also become immune to antibiotics designed to treat the same strains. So, that seemingly innocent bottle of antibacterial gel in your purse could be manufacturing bacterial superbugs.

I understand why hand sanitizer dispensers are placed outside hospital rooms and elevators. This is a gigantic breeding ground for germs, and I admit that I sometimes use these products while visiting patients.

However, I do not use them in my home or on the road. I think the less I use them, the better, and I don't want to be responsible for lessening the power of broad-spectrum antibiotics down the road.

seag47
Post 3

I believe that my body should be able to fight off infections by itself, so I only take broad-spectrum antibiotics if I feel like I'm dying. I have only taken this type of drug once in my life, and that was for strep throat, because I felt like my throat was closing, and the high fever seemed dangerous.

I only buy organic meat that has not been fed antibiotics. I want my immune system to be strong, and having to eat something that might compromise it is unacceptable to me.

I also refuse to use antibacterial gels or cleaning products. Good old soap and water should be enough to get my house clean, and it won't cause any bacteria to build up a resistance.

wavy58
Post 2

@Perdido – A broad-spectrum antibiotic was the only thing that worked to cure my kidney infection. It started out as a simple urinary tract infection, and though I took another antibiotic to treat this in the beginning, it only worsened.

I suppose that the bacteria was already resistant to the drug. When you don't get proper treatment for a urinary tract infection, it progresses to your kidneys, which is much more serious.

I knew something was wrong when instead of getting better, I developed lower back pain and started vomiting. My doctor realized what had happened, and she gave me a broad-spectrum drug for my kidney infection. I started feeling better the next day.

Perdido
Post 1

Sometimes the more specified antibiotics just don't work. This has happened to me a couple of times, and I eventually got a broad-spectrum antibiotic from my doctor that actually worked.

Once, I got strep throat, and my doctor first prescribed an antibiotic used specifically to treat this disease. She also prescribed steroids, and as long as I took them, I felt great. However, after they wore off, I could tell that the antibiotic was not doing its job.

My sore throat returned, and I also developed chest congestion and a cough. The second time I visited my doctor, she gave me a broad-spectrum antibiotic, and it knocked the infection right out.

Post your comments

Post Anonymously

Login

username
password
forgot password?

Register

username
password
confirm
email