Medical Treatments to Control Pathogens

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  • 0:02 Treatment of Pathogens
  • 0:40 Antibiotics
  • 3:42 Antivirals
  • 5:24 Antifungals
  • 7:37 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has a master's degree in cancer biology and has taught high school and college biology.

This lesson covers the different categories of medical treatments to control pathogens. We'll look at mechanisms of actions and examples of antibiotics, antivirals and antifungals, as well as the infections they're commonly used to treat.

Treatment of Pathogens

You have been very careful by washing your hands, taking your vitamins and getting plenty of rest. Somehow, though, you have still managed to get sick with something. The doctor checks you out and tells you what you have. Your main question at this point is, 'How do I get rid of it?'

The doctor lets you know that you are in luck because there is a cure for whatever you have been diagnosed with. You get a prescription for a drug that has a really weird and long name. Once you get your prescription filled, you ask the pharmacist for more information about the drug. We're about to cover three of the most likely answers that the pharmacist would give.


Of all the possible treatments for diseases, you are probably the most familiar with antibiotics. Antibiotics are drugs that target bacteria. If you are diagnosed with a bacterial infection, then the doctor will prescribe an antibiotic to help your body fight off the infection.

Not all antibiotics are the same because not all bacteria are the same. We'll go over the major classes of antibiotics and the main bacteria that they target.

The largest and most widely used class of antibiotics is penicillins. This class of antibiotics works by making it difficult for bacteria to maintain their cell wall. Penicillins are effective against gram-positive bacteria only. They are prescribed for infections like ear infections, skin infections, UTIs and respiratory tract infections. The most common of these antibiotics are amoxicillin, ampicillin and methicillin.

The next class is tetracyclines. They work by inhibiting bacteria from making the proteins they need to survive. This class is considered to be a broad-spectrum class of antibiotics since they treat most bacteria as well as rickettsia and amebic parasites. They are commonly prescribed for skin, respiratory and sinus infections in addition to Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Common antibiotics in this class include tetracycline and doxycycline.

Macrolides are a class of antibiotics that work by stopping bacteria from making the proteins that they need. They are able to target all types of bacteria. Doctors will normally prescribe them for infections such as pharyngitis, bronchitis, GI tract infections and genital infections. Antibiotics in this class include azithromycin and erythromycin.

Cephalosporins is the largest class of antibiotics, and they work by preventing bacteria from maintaining their cell walls. They also work against gram-positive bacteria. Doctors prescribe these for infections such as gonorrhea, strep throat and pneumonia. Common antibiotics under this class include cephalexin, ceftriaxone and cefozopran.

The last class we are going to discuss are fluoroquinolones. This is one of the newer classes of antibiotics and the one against which bacteria have the least amount of resistance. For this reason, these aren't prescribed as readily as some of the other classes of antibiotics. These antibiotics work by preventing bacterial replication by interfering with the DNA. Most of the antibiotics in this class are broad-spectrum, so they target all types of bacteria. They are prescribed to treat UTIs, bronchitis and skin infections. Common antibiotics under this class include ciprofloxacin, commonly called Cipro, and levofloxacin.


Our next class of treatment drugs is much more individualized. Antivirals are drugs that decrease the ability of viruses to multiply. Viruses are pieces of either DNA or RNA. DNA and RNA have specific sequences that code for the proteins and enzymes that they need to replicate in the host.

Antiviral drugs are designed to either bind the DNA or RNA based on the sequence, interfere with their ability to attach to our cells or prevent the production of needed proteins and enzymes. Doing this prevents them from being able to access the replication machinery they need to multiply.

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