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This topic takes on average 120 minutes to read.

Topic last updated: 09 Nov 2023
    • Biology Biology
    • Ico Science Science
    • 14-16
    • 120

Health, disease and the development of medicines

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Treating and preventing communicable disease in humans

Antibiotics (such as penicillin) kill or prevent the growth of a bacterial pathogen which causes a communicable disease.

Antibiotics can kill bacteria in two ways, depending on if they are bacteriostatic or bactericidal antibiotics.

  • Bacteriostatic antibiotics: Prevent the growth and replication of the bacteria
  • Bacteriocidal antibiotics: Kill the bacteria

Different bacterial pathogens are killed by different antibiotics, and so doctors should make sure to choose the right one when prescribing them to patients.

Antibiotics cannot cure communicable diseases caused by viral pathogens, and it is hard to find alternative antivirals as viruses replicate inside the human cells; for this reason, virus particles are hard to access with drugs. Instead, viruses are more commonly managed through vaccination (though some antiretroviral drugs are available). You can find more out information about different medicines for communicable diseases in the medicines resource.