Quinolones – A Powerful Friend if Used Sparingly


Antibiotics are considered one of the most crucial medical therapies available, and whether they are given for a simple urinary tract infection or for a serious disease, such as bacterial meningitis, the fact is that these medications have the capacity to eradicate a multitude of illnesses. Among the different antibiotic classes, the quinolone group (e.g. ciprofloxacin and levofloxacin) has risen as one of the most popular antibiotics, given that this class possesses remarkable versatility. They can easily wipe out pneumonia as well as obliterate harmful bacteria such as those that cause anthrax. Not surprisingly, following from their ample utility value, in 2010 the quinolones became the 5th most commonly prescribed antibiotic type within the U.S. However, this popularity and increase in antibiotic use contributed to our current issue with quinolone antibiotic resistance. In addition to this, the quinolones are known to be associated with an array of serious adverse effects, and patients taking this medication should be aware of what these are.

The quinolones work by inhibiting the synthesis of bacterial DNA, a process which results in bacterial cell death. These antibiotics are well absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract, which offers a great advantage given that the oral dose of the medication can be as effective as the intravenous dose, decreasing the need for an intravenous line placement and hospitalization. The drug is mostly eliminated through the kidneys, and patients who suffer from kidney dysfunction might need to have dose readjustments. Similar to other frequently prescribed antibiotics, the quinolones can become ineffective if the bacteria develop antibiotic resistance. When a drug is repeatedly used, the bacteria memorize the structure of the drug, and over time, the bacterial chromosomes undergo genetic mutation. This transformation allows the bacteria to either expel or block the action of the drug, resulting in the development of bacterial drug immunity. Quinolones are associated with a variety of significant complications, including: A) development of clostridium difficile colitis, a serious infection of the colon; B) tendon inflammation and rupture; and C) cardiac arrhythmias. Dizziness, headaches, and rashes can also occur.

The quinolone antibiotics should not be given to pregnant females or children, as they can cause cartilage damage. Additionally, patients with diabetes should take extra precautions when taking these antibiotics, given that these drugs can alter glucose levels. All in all, despite the dilemma of increasing drug resistance, the quinolone antibiotics are considered effective medications. Although they encompass a set of major adverse effects, these are not dissimilar to those witnessed with other antibiotic classes. No one is expected to master the list of side-effects given at the pharmacy counter, but you might be able to remember a few critical pointers. If you are given a quinolone antibiotic, generally prescribed for pneumonia and bladder infections, seek urgent medical care if you develop any of the following cluster of symptoms: 1) fever, abdominal pain, and diarrhea (suggestive of colitis); 2) joint pain; and 3) palpitations, fainting, and dizzy spells. These may or may not be related to the medication, but receiving a prompt evaluation by your physician will help you prevent a potentially serious side-effect.

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