• Question: what does medicine do to the bacteria within you and what does it do to cure you?

    Asked by boblover to Reka, Laura, Freya on 21 Jan 2019.
    • Photo: Laura Nolan

      Laura Nolan answered on 21 Jan 2019:

      The best medicine that we have to treat bacterial infections are antibiotics. Antibiotics work by targeting a particular part of bacterial cells that are either necessary for the cells to make more of themselves or necessary for the cell to stay intact – for instance common targets are DNA, the machinery of the cell that makes proteins, and the cell wall (which is the boundary all around bacteria’s cells that stops things from the outside getting in, and things from the inside getting out of the cell). The result of antibiotic treatment is to either kill the cells or to temporarily stop the bacteria growing. In our bodies if the antibiotics are able to achieve either of these outcomes then our bodies can usually clear the infection. Issues with this form of treatment arise when the bacteria are resistant (are unaffected) by the antibiotic(s) we have available to treat the infection, or if your immune system is weak so you are less able/unable to clear the infection even in combination with the use of antibiotics.