Antibiotics and viral infection

Antibiotics and viral infection

Antibiotics treat bacterial infections. They do not treat viral infections. For instance, viruses cause most types of sore throats. These are not treated with antibiotics. Strep throat, however, is a bacterial infection, which is often treated with an antibiotic.  

Even though they are clearly separate, antibiotics can have an effect on viral infections. If a viral infection is misdiagnosed as a bacterial infection, and as a result treated with an antibiotic, the antibiotic attacks bacteria, even the harmless and helpful kind.

This can promote antibiotic resistance in harmless bacteria that is then shared with other bacteria. It can also help harmful bacteria replace harmless ones.

The responsible use of antibiotics

The overuse and misuse of antibiotics are key factors contributing to antibiotic resistance. The general public, doctors and hospitals all play a role in ensuring proper use of the medications and minimizing the development of antibiotic resistance.

As a patient, it’s important to follow the full course of treatment when taking antibiotics. Stopping short because symptoms go away may not kill all the infectious bacteria. And it could promote the spread of antibiotic-resistant properties among harmful bacteria.