Question: When do you think viruses will become immune to antibiotics?

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  1. Actually, the term ‘antibiotics’ usually means something that kills bacteria (or sometimes, fungi and other small parasites). So you wouldn’t use antibiotics on viruses, because they wouldn’t do anything! This is actually a big problem in human medicine, because when people get a flu or a cold, they sometimes try to treat themselves with antibiotics. Unfortunately, using an antibiotic on a virus is completely pointless and won’t make you feel better, but it might lead to other bad bacteria in your body become resistant to the antibiotic; so, now we haven’t cured the flu, but we might have created another problem to go with it!

    A bigger problem is when bacteria might become resistent to antibiotics, and to this I can say that many of them *already are*. For example, there’s a very scary bacteria known as Staphylococcus that is responsible for several infections in humans, and can often be found lurking in hospitals waiting to infect people who are weak or who’ve had surgery. A version of this bacteria known as MRSA (methicilin-resistent stephylococcus aureus) is resistent to most of the antibiotics that we have, and is quickly acquiring resistance to the ones that we have left which still work. If all of the antibiotics we have lose their effectiveness to MRSA, we could be in serious trouble. Adding to the problem is that drug companies aren’t producing new antibiotics very quickly, because it’s both really difficult to do and very expensive.

    However, a lot of really smart people (including people in my own lab!) are working on problems like this, and there’s still hope that we can find a way around this problem. You can help, too! Make sure that if your family is taking antibiotics that your doctor has made sure that they’re taking them for the right reason, and make sure that they take *all of them* like the doctor says. Antibiotic resistance evolves quickly when people stop taking their medicine when they start feeling better; they have to keep taking the drug until the end of the time that the doctor has specified for it to work and to reduce the chance of breeding superbugs.



  1. Ok thanks! šŸ™‚