We are surrounded by billions of bacteria. Many of them actually live on our skin or in our digestive tract. However, they have no business in the respiratory system, e.g. in the lungs. So when our natural barriers (for example the skin) are defective, even the most useful bacteria can become a mortal threat.
When our immune system is weakened – e.g. by smoking, viruses, other diseases, or old age – the result can be widespread infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia.
When the body's defenses fail
Although our immune system is able to protect us naturally from minor infections, these natural defenses become less effective when we are ill or grow old. In such cases, the result can be serious, even deadly infections. Then speed is of the essence, and an effective antibiotic is often required.
Before antibiotics were invented, there was little that a physician could do at such moments. It is not surprising, therefore, that the first antibiotics were seen as miracle cures in their time.
Indeed, scientists themselves believed they had conquered infectious diseases at the time. Yet the hope was deceptive. They had underestimated bacteria's ability to adapt and survive. The phenomenon of drug resistance appeared shortly after antibiotics came into common use. Today, some bacteria are resistant to a whole range of antibiotics. New substances are needed all the time if we are to remain one step ahead. Bayer has produced some effective active ingredients in this context which today are important weapons in the fight against bacterial pathogens.
Especially common infections include respiratory- and urinary-tract infections.
Respiratory tract infections
A fundamental distinction is made between infections of the upper and lower respiratory tracts. Microbial inflammations of the tonsils (tonsilitis), the paranasal sinuses (sinusitis) and the middle ear (otitis) belong to the first group, infections of the bronchial tubes (bronchitis) and inflammations of the lungs (pneumonias) to the second.
Often, viruses are the first to affect organs and prepare the way for a subsequent bacterial infection. Typical bacterial pathogens are streptococcus and staphylococcus species and Haemophilus influenzae. Furthermore, other pathogens such as Moraxella catarrhalis can cause problems in the lower respiratory tract.
Sometimes, an untreated acute infection, e.g. of the paranasal sinuses or the bronchial tubes, can lead to serious complications. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment – for example of acute sinusitis or acute bronchitis – are therefore important.
Infections of the urinary tract are among the most frequent of all infections. The urethra, the bladder, the kidneys or the prostate can be affected. Although (small) children can also have urinary-tract infections, susceptibility generally increases with age; women tend to be more frequently affected than men.
If an organism is otherwise healthy, such infections are usually straightforward. However, complications are possible in patients with diabetes or kidney problems and in pregnant women. Escheria-coli bacteria are the main trigger of infections of the bladder and urethra. Possible reasons for successful invasions by the bacteria can be inadequate personal hygiene, suppressed urination or sexual transmission. Symptoms include a strong and frequent urge to pass water, burning pain during urination, and cloudy urine containing blood. If they remain untreated, the pathogens can also reach the kidneys and trigger a painful inflammation of the kidneys, or nephritis.
Coli bacteria also play a role in bacterial infections of the prostate. Symptoms include colds, a temperature, and pain in the genitals and even in the back. Non-bacterial inflammations of the prostate gland are more frequent than bacterial ones.
Serious Skin Infections
The skin is the largest organ of the human body and a very effective barrier against bacterial invasion. However, skin infections can occur when there is a defect or a breach in the epidermis (e.g. an insect bite) or after surgery. Disruption of the skin surface is associated with an increased risk of infection, and bacteria may colonize at different layers of the skin. As bacteria grow in number where the barrier is disrupted, invasion by these colonizing bacteria occurs and a skin and skin structure infection (SSSI) may develop. SSSIs range from mild, self-limiting infections in top skin layers to extreme, life-threatening infections in deeper skin.
Acute bacterial skin and skin structure infections (ABSSSIs) are complex and difficult-to-treat infections that may be associated with increased morbidity and mortality if not treated appropriately. The Gram-positive bacterium Staphylococcus aureus is the primary causative pathogen in skin and soft tissue infections. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA, poses a particular challenge in the treatment of skin infections since the effectiveness of commonly used antibiotics is decreasing and certain suitability/safety issues limit their use.
Bayer has in-licensed a pharmaceutical product for intravenous or oral treatment which exhibits consistent antimicrobial activity against key Gram-positive bacteria.
Antibiotics with a history
Bayer has over 70 years of experience of combating infectious diseases. Back in 1939, the Bayer researcher Gerhard Domagk was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for the development of the antibiotic Prontosil. This product from the sulfonamide group of antibiotics had been chemically derived from dyes, then an important class of products for Bayer.
In the 1980s and 90s, new active ingredients were developed from the class of fluoroquinolones. One of these is still is use as an effective active ingredient against many bacterial pathogens – 25 years after its discovery. It is used primarily against infections of the urinary tract.
Another fluoroquinolone has proved its worth against respiratory-tract infections in particular and has an especially rapid effect. Furthermore, it is also effective against other infections, e.g. of the skin or the abdomen.
Promoting responsible use
Bayer is a strong proponent of using antibiotics responsibly. Because these drugs are a scarce resource, both physicians and patients must use them carefully in order to maintain their usefulness as long as possible for the benefit of all.
Advice for patients
Each body reacts differently to medicines. Therefore it is impossible to tell which medicine works best for you. Please consult your physician.