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How Antibiotics & Antivirals Work?

Updated: Jul 7, 2021

Any substance that inhibits the growth and reproduction of a bacterium or kills it entirely can be called an antibiotic. Antibiotics are a kind of antimicrobial formed to target bacterial infections within or on)the body. This makes antibiotics subtly different from the other main types of antimicrobials widely used today:

How Antibiotics & Antivirals Work?

Antiseptics are commonly used to sterilise surfaces of living tissue when the risk of infection is high while surgery.

Disinfectants are non-selective antimicrobials, killing a broad range of micro-organisms including bacteria. They are used on non-living surfaces like in hospitals.

Of course, bacteria are not the only microbes that can be harmful to us as fungi and viruses can also be a danger to humans, and they are embattled by antifungals and antivirals, respectively. Antibiotics are the only substances that target bacteria while the name antimicrobial is a term for anything that inhibits or kills microbial cells including antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals and chemicals such as antiseptics.

Most of the antibiotics used nowadays are produced in laboratories, but they are mostly based on compounds that scientists have found in nature. Some microbes, for instance, produce substances particularly to kill other nearby bacteria to gain an advantage when competing for food, water or other limited resources; however, some microbes only produce antibiotics in the laboratory

How do antibiotics work?

Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. Some are highly specialised and are only effective against certain bacteria and others, known as broad-spectrum antibiotics, attack a broad range of bacteria, including ones that are beneficial to us.

There are two prime ways in which antibiotics target bacteria. They either avoid the reproduction of bacteria, or they kill the bacteria, such as by stopping the mechanism responsible for building their cell walls.

Antivirals work in multiple ways that can safeguard the virus from spreading once inside you or by preventing infection from ever taking hold

Antiviral drugs help to treat viral infections like the flu, shingles, and HPV.

•They work in certain ways either by preventing infection entirely or reducing further spread of the infection once you're sick.

•It is important to have a prescription to get an antiviral medication.

•While antiviral drugs can't help with bacterial infections like strep throat, they can fight viral infections including the flu, shingles, or HPV. In this article further, we discuss how antiviral drugs work, how to get them, and what to consider before taking an antiviral medication.

Antivirals work to safeguard viral infection

Antivirals treat infections by preventing the virus from scattering all over your body and they don't kill the virus, outright, which makes developing antivirals tricky.

Prevent a viral infection from taking hold

A virus, like influenza, first requires to attach to human cells before it can infect you and spread. Antiviral drugs can trap the virus through the medication instead of your cells and therefore prevent infection entirely.

How to get an antiviral drug

Antiviral drugs are only available through prescription. Antivirals may interact with other medications, such as medications that help with:


Lowering cholesterol

Bacterial infections, aka antibiotics

Fighting viruses (ie. other antivirals)

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