Also known as antibacterials, antibiotics are antimicrobial drugs that are used to eliminate or prevent specific bacterial infections and diseases by helping either inhibit or eliminate bacterial growth. Certain antibiotics also possess antiprotozoal properties which are used in the treatment of protozoan infection. Along with vaccination, antibiotics helped eradicate the threat of dreaded diseases such as tuberculosis and diphtheria thereby significantly increasing the human lifespan. Today, they are now used widely to treat all types of non-bacterial soft tissue inflammations as well.
However, as with all medicines, over usage and over dependence led to the targeted bacteria developing a resistance to them. Currently in its 8th reiteration, some of the popular antibiotics of this generation include Meropenem, Cifran and Ofloxacin, to name a few. However, it needs to be mentioned that antibiotics are ineffective against viruses that cause influenza or the common cold – being viruses, they need to be treated with antivirals instead of antibiotics.
The term antibiotic in simpler terms, means opposing life. It generally refers to any substance that works against microbes and is synonymous with antimicrobial remedies. There’s also a stark difference between the terms antibiotic and antibacterial. While antibiotics are used more as medicine, antibacterials find a greater usage in disinfectants and soaps.
What is a Vaccination?
Vaccination, on the other hand is where an individual is administered with a vaccine or antigenic material to boost or stimulate his/her immune system and therein, develop an adaptive immunity to a particular harmful pathogen. Vaccines are thereby used to prevent morbidity from a certain infection. Vaccines have been proven to be very effective in the past – for instance, influenza, HPV and chicken pox vaccines have proven to be extremely successful in preventing the spread of these infectious diseases.
Vaccination’s primary function is to prevent the spread of infectious diseases thereby increasing immunity. This has led to the worldwide eradication of several potent infectious diseases such as smallpox while also proving effective against the spread of measles, polio, rabies and tetanus. The WHO reports that there are currently a total of 25 licensed vaccines available which have successfully prevented or controlled various types of preventable infections.
How does a Vaccine work?
Vaccines double up as a training course for your immune system putting in through several hoops before a disease hits your body. Therefore, a vaccine helps in preparing your body to fight against potential diseases without exposing it to the disease’s symptoms.
When foreign bodies such as bacteria or viruses invade your body, there are certain immune cells called as lymphocytes which respond to the threat by producing antibodies, which are protein molecules. These antibodies attack the invader known as antigens thereby protecting against further infection. Unfortunately, when the body gets attacked from a particular invader for the first time, it can take several days for your body to counter with an antibody response. In case of measles virus or cough bacteria, a few days might be too long as such a potential infection can spread and kill you before your immunity system can fight back.
This is where a vaccine comes handy. Vaccines are effectively made up of dead or weakened antigens – they can’t necessarily result in an infection, but your immune system will still view them as an enemy thereby producing antibodies in response. Once the threat has been taken care of, many of the antibodies will break down, retaining immune cells called memory cells in the body. If your body were to encounter that particular antigen again, the memory cells which are left produce antibodies quickly, striking down the invader before it’s too late.
Success of Vaccination
Vaccination has eradicated Smallpox, which was not only contagious but deadly and caused deaths in 20–60% of infected adults and over 80% children. Before smallpox was finally eliminated in 1979, it had already killed a massive 300–500 million people in the last century. This by itself shows how vaccination is a not only the product of great scientific thinking but a boon to mankind. In common parlance, immunization and vaccination are somewhat similar.