Superinfections

Antibiotics are a good thing—and a not so good thing. The benefit is obvious. Antibiotics kill bacteria, however, problems can arise. The normal microbial flora die along with the bacteria. This flora can be replaced by resistant bacteria and superinfection can occur. This is a greater risk when large doses of antibiotics are used, when more than one antibiotic is used at a time, or when broad-spectrum drugs are used. For example, the overuse of cephalosporins may cause pseudomonas and the overuse of tetracycline may cause Candida albicans. Pseudomonas and Candida albicans are then considered to be a superinfection in response to the use of cephalosporins and tetracycline.

Resistance to the antibiotic is another problem that can occur. Culture and sensitivity studies should be performed on all infections in order to determine which antibiotics will work for the microorganism that is causing the infection. The test can be performed on blood or wound drainage to identify the bacteria and help identify which antibiotic will be effective.

Some patients stop taking medication as soon as the symptoms of infection dissipate, however the bacterium is still alive and actively growing. As a result, the patient has a relapse and is again prescribed the antibiotic.

Other times, the prescriber may underprescribe an antibiotic by giving the patient a lower-than-effective dose or order the antibiotic for a short period of time. At first this seems like a logical way to prevent the bacterium from becoming resistant to the antibiotic. However, a low dose may not completely kill the bacterium resulting in a recurrence of symptoms that requires additional doses of antibiotics. It is very important to choose the right antibiotic, in the right dose, for the right amount of time.

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