Why doctors insist you finish a course of antibiotics
The most basic principle of antibiotics is using one bacteria’s defence mechanisms against another bacterium.
This can be seen as a white outline around a bacterial growth that prevents other bacteria moving in on its space.
We effectively isolate this and then ingest it the kill or halt the growth of any dangerous bacteria inside our bodies.
So why do we need to finish the whole course given by our doctors?
Not finishing the course means there still may be some of the bacterial colony remaining inside your body. This section of the colony is given the chance to become resistant to the antibiotic (e.g. amoxicillin), so it effectively mutates so it is no longer affected by it.
If then you infect someone else with this amoxicillin resistant bacteria we cannot use that antibiotic on that person, as it won’t work.
The scariest part of this is that if more people became infected then we would have limited treatment options and it could result in a global pandemic of a disease that we wouldn’t be able to treat.
When you hear the media refer to a “super bug” they’re usually referring to a bacteria that we do not have any antibiotics that work against.
As time goes by increasing numbers of bacteria become resistant to all of the antibiotics we produce, which would send medicine back to the dark ages, a world without antibiotics!
Sam Fitzpatrick Final Year Medical Student, Cardiff University.
Milad Rouf Final Year Medical Student, Cardiff University.
Taubes G. The bacteria fight back. 2008. Science. 2008;321:356–61. [PubMed]
Salyers, A. 2003. The Problem of Antibiotic Resistance. Annual Review of Microbiology.