The discovery of penicillin, the first true antibiotic, in 1928 was one of the most life-changing events of the 20th century. Before the discovery of penicillin, there was little that doctors could do when bacterial infections developed. People used to die from diseases and injuries that were treatable today. Now there are more than 100 antibiotics to fight bacterial infections. Here, we take a look at common antibiotic names and the types of antibiotics your doctor may prescribe.
The first penicillin gave rise to an entire class of antibiotics known as penicillins. Penicillins are obtained from a certain mold (a type of fungus). They are helpful antibiotics that are often a doctor’s first choice for various types of infections. This includes skin, respiratory, ear, sexually transmitted diseases and dental infections. They are also highly effective against familiar organisms such as staph and strep. As for side effects, rashes and allergic reactions are common with penicillins. Other common side effects include diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal pain .
Examples of penicillin include:
- Penisilin G
- Penisilin V
Cephalosporins are related to penicillins. Both belong to a larger class called beta lactams. Like penicillins, cephalosporins were originally derived from a fungus. There are five generations of cephalosporins. Each generation encompasses different types of bacteria. As a result, these drugs can treat a variety of infections, from strep throat and skin infections to very serious infections such as meningitis. Because they are related to penicillins, some people with penicillin allergies may also react to cephalosporins. Other common side effects include diarrhea, nausea, heartburn , and abdominal pain.
Examples of cephalosporins include:
Macrolides are a completely different class of antibiotics from beta-lactams. But they effectively treat many of the same infections. This includes respiratory, ear, skin and sexually transmitted infections. Therefore, they are very beneficial for people who are allergic to beta-lactams. They are also useful when bacteria develop resistance to beta-lactam antibiotics. However, macrolides do have a lot of drug interactions. When you take macrolides, make sure your doctor and pharmacist know all the medicines you are taking. Common side effects include nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and diarrhea.
Examples of macrolides include:
4. Fluoroquinolones (broad spectrum antibiotics)
Fluoroquinolones or quinolones are active against a wide variety of bacteria. This makes them useful for treating infections when other antibiotics have failed. It is also an alternative when some people are allergic to other antibiotics. They can treat everything from eye infections to pneumonia, skin, sinus, joint, urinary or gynecological infections and more. However, this class of antibiotics can be a problem for people with certain heart conditions and certain other medications. Make sure your doctor and pharmacist know your full medical history. Common side effects include stomach upset or pain, diarrhea, headache, and drowsiness.
Examples of fluoroquinolones include:
‘sulfa drugs’ derived from the chemical sulfanilamide have been around for as long as penicillin. Technically, sulfonamides do not kill bacteria the way other antibiotics do. Instead, they are bacteriostatic – they stop bacterial growth and your immune system will do the rest. They are very good topical treatments for burns and vaginal or eye infections. They can also treat urinary tract infections and diarrhea. Common side effects include diarrhea, nausea, rash , and sun sensitivity. Allergies are also common in this group.
Examples of sulfonamides include:
These antibiotics come from a type of bacteria called Streptomyces . It seems odd that a bacterium could produce an antibiotic that kills other bacteria, but that’s exactly what this antibiotic does. Tetracyclines, like sulfonamides, are bacteriostatic. They treat a variety of infections such as respiratory, skin and genital infections. They also treat unusual infections such as Lyme disease, malaria, anthrax, cholera and plague. It also has non-infectious uses, such as treating rosacea . Common side effects include stomach pain or discomfort, sun sensitivity, and yeast infections.
Examples of tetracyclines include:
7. Other antibiotics
If none of the above antibiotics work, doctors have other antibiotic options. Some of these are only found in hospitals. As a last resort, these antibiotics are very useful. Examples of these types of antibiotics include antibiotics such as clindamycin, metronidazole, and nitrofurantoin. Each antibiotic, whether in a defined class or not, has different dose requirements. You should take some on an empty stomach and some with food. Your doctor or pharmacist will tell you the best way to take an antibiotic. With all antibiotics, it is important that you finish the medication according to your doctor’s instructions. This ensures adequate treatment and prevents antibiotic resistance.