We have all suffered from the common cold. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults get the common cold on average two to three times a year, and the number of times children get the cold in a year is even higher.
The discomfort that comes along with the symptoms of a cold, like a runny nose, congestion, sneezing and coughing is not hard to forget.
Since the common cold is caused by viruses, there is no specific drug you can take to instantly start feeling better, and usually symptoms resolve on their own by normal functioning of our immune system.
Sometimes, what starts out as a common cold can lead to more serious health complications such as a bacterial infection.
When this happens, the symptoms will not get better or can worsen after the normal recovery period for a common cold.
A trip to your doctor’s office can confirm whether what you have is actually a bacterial infection.
Similarly, bacterial infections can occur in any part of the body and not just the upper respiratory tract. Common bacterial infections in the body may include a urinary tract infection, sinus infection and skin infection.
Have you ever wondered how people contract bacterial infections?
The presence of certain bacteria within our bodies is normal and important for our overall good health. So when can bacteria become infectious? Bacterial infections can occur in several different ways.
The buildup or growth of bacteria in an area of the body where bacteria are not normally present is one way that this happens.
An example is when bacteria that normally reside in the colon move to the urinary tract. This causes urinary tract infections. In other cases, when harmful or pathogenic bacteria that do not normally reside within our body are allowed to enter, they can grow and cause unwanted symptoms that indicate an infection. An example of this is some species of bacteria that cause pneumonia.
Luckily, antibiotics are available that are very powerful drugs that counteract the ability of bacteria to invade and grow within our body.
Antibiotics have been around for almost 100 years, and since their initial discovery, bacterial infections are highly treatable conditions for the most part. In the present day ‘super-bug’ scenario, some bacteria have now gained the ability to become resistant to antibiotics, making it all the more important to have antibiotics that are highly efficient at killing these organisms.
Augmentin is a broad-spectrum antibiotic that is effective against almost all bacterial species. It contains a penicillin-based antibiotic called amoxicillin, along with another drug, clavulanic acid.
This combination is extremely potent in treating bacterial infections. Let’s take a look at why Augmentin is unique compared to amoxicillin or the other penicillins alone.
History of Augmentin
The year 1928 witnessed a major medical breakthrough when Alexander Fleming discovered the first antibiotic, penicillin, from a contaminated plate of bacteria that he was growing in his laboratory.
The penicillin antibiotic was later identified to be produced from a mold (Penicillium notatum) that could kill the bacteria that he was growing.
While Fleming studied the penicillin antibiotic for only a few years, his key discovery was further developed by other groups, and within another decade penicillin was being used to successfully treat bacterial infections.
It was found to be effective against the ‘gram-positive’ bacterial species that include species such as Staphylococcus and Streptococcus that are responsible for a large variety of infections in humans.
Today, the penicillin antibiotics refer to a large group of antibiotics that all have a beta-lactam ring in their chemical structure. One of the most commonly prescribed penicillin-type antibiotics is amoxicillin (also known as the brand Moxatag or Amoxil).
As penicillin initially had a large amount of adverse effects, many groups around the world continued research in hopes of discovering penicillin-derivatives that were potent against killing bacteria while demonstrating reduced side effects.
In the early 1960s, Beecham Laboratories in Beecham, England identified amoxicillin, and it was on the market by the 1970s.
While amoxicillin provided benefits over penicillin in terms of efficacy and reduced side effects, it was soon observed that some bacterial populations could resist the effects of amoxicillin and could not be treated by it anymore.
These ‘resistant’ bacteria were producing an enzyme called beta-lactamase that could cleave the administered beta-lactam based antibiotics, like amoxicillin.
By breaking down the antibiotic, the bacteria were essentially not susceptible to its effects anymore.
This is where Augmentin came in. Scientists at Beecham Laboratories found that a certain species of mold, Streptomyces clavuligerus, produced a substance, clavulanic acid, which had a similar chemical structure to penicillin with a beta-lactam ring.
However, initial tests showed that clavulanic acid was not very effective in inhibiting the growth of bacteria. Fortunately, they did not discard clavulanic acid and continued studies with it.
Subsequent research showed that the clever pairing of clavulanic acid with amoxicillin was highly efficient in inhibiting bacterial growth of even bacteria that can quickly develop antibiotic resistance to amoxicillin alone. This new combination antibiotic of amoxicillin and clavulanic acid was named Augmentin.
How does Augmentin work?
The beta-lactam antibiotics, including amoxicillin, work by preventing bacteria from building their cell wall.
The cell wall is a crucial component of the bacterial cell architecture that keeps it protected from the surrounding environment and prevents water from flowing inside the cell.
When the beta-lactam structure binds to the building blocks of the cell wall, the bacteria cannot build this defensive cellular component and it results in their death.
This is the main way that the penicillin antibiotics work, regardless of whether they are synthetic or semi-synthetic derivatives of penicillin. Repeated exposure to the beta-lactams have helped bacteria to develop resistance towards them.
Beta-lactamase produced by the bacteria binds to the beta-lactam antibiotics rendering the antibiotic unable to prevent cell wall synthesis.
Hence, the bacteria survive even in the presence of the antibiotic. Combining clavulanic acid with amoxicillin in Augmentin allows amoxicillin to interfere with cell wall synthesis because any beta-lactamase that is produced by the bacteria binds to clavulanic acid instead of amoxicillin. Thus, amoxicillin is free to break down cell wall synthesis and this results in bacterial killing and clearing of the infection.
So, what is Augmentin used for and how do you take it?
Augmentin is used to treat infections that are caused by different bacterial species. These infections commonly include:
- Sinus infection
- Urinary tract infection
- Skin infection
- Ear infection
Augmentin is used for infections that are resistant to amoxicillin alone. It is also a preferred antibiotic for certain infections in people that have pre-existing conditions like diabetes.
Importantly, Augmentin is not effective against a viral infection or fungal infection.
Augmentin is available as both a liquid form that must be refrigerated, or as tablets.
An Augmentin tablet is usually taken every 8 to 12 hours as prescribed, and the dose depends on the type and severity of infection it is being used for.
It is important to take the complete course of Augmentin even if your symptoms resolve before the course is finished.
Some of the most common Augmentin side effects include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, skin rashes and vaginitis.
There are certain drug interactions that can be dangerous for a patient if this medication is taken with other drugs.
Ask your doctor if it’s safe for you to take this drug if you are on other medication to avoid serious or adverse effects.
Do not take Augmentin if you have a known penicillin allergy. For people with allergies to penicillin, alternative antibiotics are available to treat infections.
Taking Augmentin if you are allergic to penicillin could be dangerous, so make sure to tell your doctor or pharmacist if you have this allergy. Make sure they inform you about what to do if you have an allergic reaction to the medication.
Additionally, you should discuss whether to take Augmentin if you have a previous history of kidney disease or liver disease. Pregnant women should also discuss whether to take Augmentin with their physician.
Also, be aware of the potential risks of mixing Augmentin and alcohol.
Talk to your doctor for more details about the risks of combining this drug with other substances.
References, Resources and Studies:
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Chris is one of the Co-Founders of Pharmacists.org. An entrepreneur at heart, Chris has been building and writing in consumer health for over 10 years. In addition to Pharmacists.org, Chris and his Acme Health LLC Brand Team own and operate Diabetic.org and the USA Rx Pharmacy Discount Card powered by Pharmacists.org.
Chris has a CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) designation and is a proud member of the American Medical Writer’s Association (AMWA), the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP), the National Association of Science Writers (NASW), the Council of Science Editors, the Author’s Guild, and the Editorial Freelance Association (EFA).
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