How do antibiotics kill viruses?

Define antibiotics

An important medical discovery, antibiotics were discovered in 1928 by a scientist named Alexander Fleming. Antibiotics treat bacterial infections.

Do antibiotics kill viruses? How?

Using an antibiotic to treat a virus (cold, flu) won’t cure the virus, won’t make you feel better, won’t stop others from getting it. Many bacterial infections require antibiotics, but the type of antibiotic required varies by infection. Antibiotics either inhibit or kill bacterial growth (bacteriostatic) (bactericidal).

Viruses are not like bacteria; they have a different structure and way of life. Antibiotics cannot penetrate virus cell walls because they are protected by a protein coat. Viruses can only live and reproduce inside a human cell. To reproduce, viruses insert their genetic material into human cell DNA. A virus has no “target” for the antibiotic.

How to recognize illness by bacteria or viruses?

Most viral illnesses are “self-limiting,” meaning your immune system will kick in and fight the illness. But it takes time; cough and cold can last 7-10 days, and the flu can last 2–3 weeks. Whilst urinary tract infections (UTIs), sore throat by Streptococcus sp., and pneumonia are commonly caused by bacteria.

How to kill viruses?

Antiviral drugs and vaccines target viruses. These antibodies can then “recognize” the virus and inactivate it before it can cause disease. Vaccines help prevent the flu, COVID, shingles, and chickenpox.

If you catch a virus, rest, drink lots of fluids and treat symptoms like fever or aches and pains. Pain and fever relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be taken as prescribed by your doctor. If you have a viral illness like a cough, cold, or sore throat and your symptoms worsen or do not go away in 10 days, see your doctor.

When you have the flu, shingles (herpes zoster), COVID, or chickenpox (varicella), your doctor may prescribe an antiviral drug to help you recover faster and avoid complications. Antivirals are most effective when taken within 24 to 48 hours of infection.

In certain cases, bacteria can invade complicated or prolonged viral infections, we name them secondary bacterial infections like bacterial pneumonia. Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to kill the specific invading bacteria. Take note, the antibiotic is not for the virus. The answer to which drugs to use per case depends on the specific diagnosis given by your doctors. For instance, antibiotics are required for most ear infections, but not all.

Possible problems from improper usage of antibiotics

Antibiotic resistance is a global healthcare issue caused by overuse and inappropriate prescribing. Why don’t antibiotics kill viruses, and how does overuse cause “antibiotic resistance”? Bacteria, like all living things, can evolve and adapt. Antibiotics can become ‘resistant’ to bacteria if they are used frequently. Bacterial infections may become untreatable as bacteria become resistant to antibiotics. Taking antibiotics when they aren’t needed increases this risk and reduces their effectiveness.

Bacteria can develop drug resistance by few mechanisms:

  • Medicine resistance occurs when bacteria develop resistance to drugs intended to kill or weaken them.
  • Infections can become difficult or impossible to treat if a germ becomes drug-resistant.
  • A person with a drug-resistant infection can spread it to another person. A difficult-to-treat illness can be spread this way.
  • Antibiotic-resistant illnesses can cause serious disability or death.
  • Resistant bacteria can develop if only partially treated. To avoid this, even if you feel better, finish the antibiotic prescription as directed.

Antibiotics are unnecessary and can cause side effects like rash, stomach upset, and diarrhea. It can also mean they won’t work for a serious infection.

Antibiotics should never be shared. Some common pneumonia and bladder infections do not respond to amoxicillin (a penicillin-like drug). Find doctor

While you may have good intentions, the bacteria causing another’s infection may not be susceptible to your antibiotic. Bacteria may not die, and the infection may worsen. Your antibiotic may cause side effects or serious allergic reactions in the person you share it with. Overall, sharing any medicine is risky.

Some viruses cause symptoms that resemble bacterial infections, and some bacteria can cause symptoms that resemble viral infections. Your doctor can diagnose your illness and recommend the best treatment for you. In a conclusion, the prescription of medicine should not be done individually, instead, we should get assistance from health professionals to achieve optimum health results.

It’s advisable to take Covid 19 Vaccine.


Dr. David K Simson
The author, Dr. David K Simson is a trained radiation oncologist specializing in advanced radiation techniques such as intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT), image-guided radiotherapy (IGRT), volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT) / Rapid Arc, stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT), stereotactic radiotherapy (SRT), stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS). He is also experienced in interstitial, intracavitary, and intraluminal brachytherapy.