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Antivirulence vs. Traditional: Which is the Better Antibiotic?

Lifestyle & Opinion

By Kristen McNab

No one likes being sick. Becoming ill disrupts routines, and causes days, even weeks, to be missed from work and school. Basically, it requires lives to be put on hold for the duration of the illness. In addition to that, sometimes the worst part of being sick is not even the sickness itself, it is the medication. Having to take those chalky, foul-tasting antibiotics is anything but pleasant. But do these cure all pills actually do more harm than good?

It seems as if doctors will prescribe antibiotics for just about any ailment nowadays. Whether it is a urinary tract infection, the common cold, or even cystic acne, the answer is to take a pill and forget about it. Yes, these pills do their duty and assist in warding off bacterial infections for the short period of time that the patient is prescribed to take them. However, unfortunately, as time goes on, the human body will more than likely develop a resistance against these traditional antibiotics. Luckily though, studies in medicinal science have recently begun to shift gears from the traditional antibiotics to a new and fantastical breakthrough known as antivirulence antibiotics.

Even with the introduction of this new medicine, there is no way to completely avoid becoming sick. It is simply a way of life, and it does aid in strengthening the immune system. The immune system is incredible in its ways of taking care of the body that it lives within. However, no matter how strong the body is, it is still susceptible to illnesses brought on by harmful strains of bacteria. One such strain, known as a virulent strain, can cause the immune system to go haywire. This particular strain uses virulence factors to turn a harmless, benign bacterium into a full-fledged pathogen.

Once a harmful pathogen is introduced to the body that the immune system cannot seem to fight off, the body goes into survival mode. During this time, the body flushes out iron, amino acids, and other nutrients to keep the infection from grabbing a hold becoming any stronger. Antivirulence antibiotics assist in helping the immune system become healthier and more able to break down and dispose of the virulent strains of bacteria. Doing this leads to significantly less pathogenic illnesses. Additionally, it takes a much longer time to develop a slight, if any, resistance against antivirulence antibiotics.

While antivirulence antibiotics do pose many great benefits, in some situations, they will still need to be taken alongside traditional antibiotics. But this is only if the patient is elderly or has a significantly depleted immune system. This makes sense because it is commonly known that as the body ages, it becomes much weaker and unable to take care of itself. Therefore, the introduction of antivirulence antibiotics to an elderly person who has an insufficient immune system would not be very beneficial.

Ideally, antivirulence antibiotics will become much more mainstream and readily accessible in the near future. The preferred outcome would be for those who are young and with a healthy immune system to take the antivirulence antibiotics once they become sick. That way it will work with the immune system to naturally get rid of the illness. From then on, those individuals would only take traditional antibiotics when completely necessary. It is very important to stay healthy and away from traditional antibiotics as much as possible. This can be unfortunate at times, but, as stated before, these pills do much more harm to the body than good.

Header photo by Marquette LaForest (flickr creative commons)

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