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How do antibiotics work with the body's immune system?

Sometimes the body's immune system is unable to activate itself quickly enough to outpace the reproductive rate of invading bacteria. Other times, the bacteria are producing toxins so quickly they will cause permanent damage before the immune system can fully eliminate the bacteria. In these cases the immune system needs help from something that can kill the offending bacteria directly.

Antibiotics work on bacterial infections. These chemicals kill the bacteria cells but do not affect cells that make up the body. For example, many antibiotics interrupt machinery inside bacterial cells that builds the cell wall. This machinery does not exist in human cells, so they are unaffected. Different antibiotics work on different sections of bacterial machinery. Each one, therefore, can only be effective on specific types of bacteria.

Because a virus is not alive, antibiotics will have no effect on a virus.

Unfortunately, antibiotics lose effectiveness over time. If you take antibiotics, they will normally kill all of the targeted bacteria in about a week or 10 days. You will feel better in a day or two because a majority of the targeted bacteria are killed quickly. On occasion, as the bacteria reproduce, they might form a mutated bacterium that can survive that particular antibiotic. This bacterium will then reproduce and the whole disease could mutate. Eventually the new strain is infecting others and the old antibiotic has no effect. This process has become a growing problem over time and is a significant concern in the medical community.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.