Antibiotics: Survival of the Fittest
Besides the cost and potential side effects or allergic reaction, taking antibiotics can lead to bacterial resistance.
In the bacterial world it’s survival of the fittest. And unlike us mammals, bacteria can multiply really fast. Like in minutes or hours.
Some of these bacteria mutate. So, even if all the bacteria that are sensitive to the antibiotics die, sometimes the antibiotic-resistant mutants survive.
With all the weaker ones dead, this mutant bacteria has room to thrive. Sometimes, it’s strong enough to multiply and start its own colony. The more people who take antibiotics, the more chances this has to happen.
Even if you’re taking antibiotics for a true bacterial infection, this mutation is possible. It’s the reason you need to take all of your recommended dose—so that some of the bacteria that are sort of resistant don’t survive and develop into an infection now much more resistant to the antibiotic used.
If the infection is viral, bad bacteria may still be in your system, just not strong enough or in large enough numbers to harm you.
But antibiotics don’t discriminate against good or bad bacteria. They kill all they can. Again, you can be left with the antibiotic-resistant ones that now have room to thrive.
The results of the studies I’m going to talk about give us tools to better know when we really need antibiotics for coughing and when we’re dealing with something like a chest cold that’s likely to go away on its own.
The guidelines the studies give us aren’t perfect predictors, just more ways to help us doctors in our decision-making. And I’ll think you’ll see their value to you also.
Both studies were looking at fairly healthy older teens and adults 65 years old and younger.