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Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Nurse Dave,
What's the deal with antibiotics?
Zack, Taylor, NJ

Zack thanks for the question. The first major antibiotic discovered was penicillin. The discovery made by Alexander Fleming was that a certain kind of mold could inhibit bacterial growth. This mold contained what Fleming dubbed penicillin. This new wonder drug could actually cure disease rather than just treat it. The drug made use of the natural defense mechanisms of microbial organisms to treat infections in humans.

It might help to think of microbes as junior high students. Junior high students have to come up with various defense mechanisms against each other to survive the harsh environment. Some might turn to choir or become heavily involved in band. This way they have a safe part of the junior high school building where there is no reason to fear (kind of like how billions of bacteria make a home in the average human colon, its safe in there). Other defense mechanisms may include humor, sports, drugs, science fiction, harry potter or finding a place to hide in the library. These defense mechanisms allow the student to survive Junior High. Microbes have their own defense mechanisms they use to fight other microbes, to make antibiotics we harvest those defense mechanisms and use them to help humans.

But sadly Zack the deal is that bacteria can develop resistence to antibiotics. There are numerous bacteria out there that can't be treated with standard antibiotics. So now we must use antibiotics wisely and as prescribed or else there may be trouble in the future.

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