Building Blocks Pt. 2

Jun 7, 2016

In Building Blocks Part 1, we reviewed some basic terms related to infections. In Part 2, we’ll learn more about the medications that treat those infections.

The type of infection determines what type of medication can be used to treat it.

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Antibiotics – Antibiotics treat bacterial infections and only bacterial infections. (If it helps, you can think of antibiotics as “anti-bacterials.”) The common cold and flu are NOT bacterial infections – they are viral. This is why it is important that you do not take antibiotics for a cold or flu.

Antivirals – Antivirals treat viral infections. Even though the common cold is a viral infection, there is no cure for it. In other words, there is no antiviral to treat the common cold. There are only medications that help manage cold symptoms. There are, however, antivirals for the flu and many other viral infections.

Some types of infectious diseases like sore throat, pneumonia, and other upper respiratory infections can be bacterial or viral. It’s important to see a healthcare provider so that you can have tests run to determine the type of infection to see if antibiotics (or antivirals) are necessary.

Antifungals – Antifungals treat fungal infections like Athlete’s foot or tinea. Because many fungal infections occur on the skin or outer layers of the body, many antifungals are topical, meaning they are applied externally. If a fungal infection is systemic, meaning it affects internal organs or has spread inside the body, antifungals may be given by mouth.

topical antifungal

Antiprotozoals – Antiprotozoals (and antiparasitics) treat…you guessed it…protozoan infections.

Together, these agents – antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals, and antiprotozoals – are known as antimicrobials.

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Other drugs like antivirals, antifungals, and antiprotozoals are also antimicrobials.


Each of these microbes – bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa – are living, and therefore have the ability to adapt and become resistant to the drugs that we use to treat them. When we overuse or misuse antimicrobials, it leads to antimicrobial resistance.

When antimicrobial resistance develops, antimicrobials become ineffective, and we run the risk of not having antimicrobials to treat life-threatening conditions like sepsis.

Thanks for joining! As always, feel free to leave comments/questions.


Additional Resources:

Learn more about types of microbes (germs) here:

A kid-friendly resource for learning about germs: