Antimicrobial agents refer to drugs used to cure bacterial infections (Scholar, 2000). They fulfill their function by killing or preventing proliferation of microbes such as fungi, bacteria, and protozoa. Proper prescription of antimicrobial agents can save lives due to their effectiveness. Their mode of action includes either killing bacteria or preventing reproduction and multiplication (Scholar, 2000). The effectiveness of antibiotics is augmented by the body’s defense mechanism. Antimicrobial agents are classified into different groups depending on the microorganisms they fight. Due to varied modes of action, it is necessary to take great caution when identifying an infection for purposes of administering antibiotics.
Categories of antimicrobial agents
Antimicrobial agents are grouped into three categories depending on the microbes they fight. These categories include antibacterial agents, antifungal agents, and antiviral agents (Scholar, 2000). Antibacterial agents fight bacteria and are classified depending on site of action. Mode of action involves inhibition of cell wall synthesis, inhibition of protein synthesis, interruption of metabolic pathways, inhibition DNA or RNA synthesis, and interruption of the plasma membrane (Tryo and Beringer, 2006). Examples of antimicrobial agents include betalactams, aminoglycosides, tetracyclines, chloramphenicol, and sulfonamides.
Antifungal agents refer to antimicrobial agents used to fight fungi. They are grouped into four groups that include polyenes, griseofluvin, flucytosine, and synthetic azoles (Tryo and Beringer, 2006). They exhibit selective toxicity in their mode of action. For example, surface infections are easy to cure while complex and systemic infections are difficult to cure. Polyenes is obtained from Streptomyces while griseofluvin is obtained from Penicillium. They differ in their modes of action.
Antiviral agents are used to fight viruses. Antibiotics cannot cure viral infections because viruses are non-living microbes (Greenwood, 2008). Antiviral drugs are toxic to humans because of their mode of action. They kill the host cell in order to eradicate the virus completely. Their mode of action involves inhibition of DNA synthesis, inhibition of protein assembly, and inhibition of viral attachment to host cells (Greenwood, 2008). Examples of antiviral agents include fuzeon, acyclovir, ribavirin, valacylovir, and amantadine.
Differences between viral and bacterial infections
First, viral infections last for a shorter period compared to bacterial infections (Greenwood, 2008). For example, viral infections might last a week while viral infections might last two weeks. Secondly, viral infections cause an array of symptoms such as coughs, aches, and sore throat. In contrast, bacterial infections have fewer symptoms. Infection symptoms are characterized by severe pain or sharp body ache. Viral diseases include chicken pox and common cold. Common symptoms of viral infections include cough, sore throat, and fever. Administration of antibiotics does not increase speed of recovery from viral infections (Arcangelo & Peterson, 2013).
Urinary tract infections are examples of bacterial infections. Many bacterial infections can be treated by administering antibiotics. In addition, the body’s immune system can also eradicate certain bacteria species. In some instances, bacterial infections are caused by secondary infections. For example, a viral infection may cause a bacterial infection (Arcangelo & Peterson, 2013). A runny nose that lasts for two weeks may be a symptom of a sinus infection that could be treated by administering an antibiotic. Pneumonia and ear infections are examples of secondary infections.
Importance of proper infection identification
Proper identification of viral and bacterial infections is key to selecting appropriate antimicrobial agent. The mode of action and administration of an antimicrobial agent can affect the health of a patient if chosen wrongly. For example, antibiotics do not possess ability to cure viral infections. Therefore, administering antibiotics to patients with viral infection is ineffective and may worsen their health. Different antimicrobial agents have different methods of administration. Improper administration of an antimicrobial agent may have adverse effects on health of a patient. In addition, proper identification is vital in order to ensure that a specific pathogen responsible for a certain infection is killed quickly (Arcangelo & Peterson, 2013).
This ensures that a patient recovers without relapse or development of resistance by the pathogen. Administering proper drugs to cure infections ensures that drug-induced toxicity is avoided (Arcangelo & Peterson, 2013). Certain infections require higher doses than others do or more frequent drug administration. Incase an infection is wrongly identified and wrong prescription made, the patient might be in danger of intoxication (Arcangelo & Peterson, 2013). Finally, proper identification facilitates determination of the right dosage for the infection. Wrong identification may lead to wrong determination of dosage, which might affect the health of a patient adversely.
Antimicrobial agents are used to fight bacterial infections. They are classified into three groups that include antifungal agents, antibacterial agents, and antiviral agents. Each of these agents has a different mode of action that determines its effectiveness. Viral infections differ from bacterial infections significantly. They differ in terms of symptoms and length of persistence. It is necessary to identify infections properly when selecting antimicrobial agents in order to ensure that the target pathogen is killed and the patient recovers without relapse. In addition, it avoids drug-based toxicity that may arise from wrong prescription.
Arcangelo, P., & Peterson, M. (2013). Pharmacotherapeutics for Advanced Practice: A practical approach (3rd ed.). Ambler, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Greenwood, D. (2008). Antimicrobial Drugs: Chronicle of a Twentieth Century Medical Triumph. New York: Oxford University Press.
Scholar, E. (2000). The Antimicrobial Drugs. New York: Oxford University Press.
Tryo, B., and Beringer, P. (2006). Remington: The Science and Practice of Pharmacy. New York: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.