Infectious Diseases - Medicines

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  • Infectious Diseases: Medicines
  • Chemicals vs pathogens
  • Antibiotic resistance
  • Developing medicines
  • Different types of medicines
  • Quiz

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Different types of medicines

There are many different types of medicines available to us today, some of which cure diseases while others make us feel better and able to carry on with our lives. They include:

  • Medicines which destroy infectious organisms, e.g. antibiotics.
  • Medicines which relieve symptoms but do not destroy pathogens, e.g. different kinds of pain killers such as ibuprofen, paracetamol.
  • Medicines which destroy cancer cells. Anticancer medicines are often given in combination, e.g. mitomycin, ifosfamide and cisplatin (MIC).
  • Medicines which change the chemistry of the blood eg statins which help reduce cholesterol levels.
  • Medicines which replace missing chemicals in the blood, e.g. insulin.
  • Personalised medicines are medicines which are prescribed using information from studies of the human genome to identify the best medicine to use for a particular genotype. Particular groups of people, or particular types of cancers, will be given specific drugs. Medicine will be stratified so that everyone gets the medicine which will works best for them based on genetic information rather than trial and error. Not only will this mean people are treated more successfully but also the risk of unpleasant side effects will be kept to a minimum.
DNA double helix

As our understanding of the human genome grows it may be possible to produce personalised medicines for everyone
Courtesy: Peter Artymiuk/Wellcome Images

Medicine that acts against bacterial infections. Penicillin is an example of an antibiotic.
Protein that is produced by lymphocytes (white blood cells) and that attaches to a specific antigen.
Molecule on the surface of a pathogen that identifies it as a foreign invader to the immune system.
Single-celled organism. Has a cell wall, cell membrane, cytoplasm. Its DNA is loosely-coiled in the cytoplasm and there is no distinct nucleus.
The use of biological organisms or enzymes to create, break down or transform a material
To cut apart, or separate, tissue especially for anatomical study.
Exponential growth
If something is growing exponentially the larger the quantity gets, the faster it grows
Micro-organism that can grow in long tubes called hyphae or as single cells. Fungi have a nucleus, cytoplasm and a cell wall.
Herd immunity
If a high percentage of a population is immune to a disease the disease cannot be passed on because it cannot find new hosts.
Infection caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It attacks and destroys the immune system.
Hybridoma cells are formed by fusing a specific antibody-producing cell with a type of cancer cell that grows well in tissue culture
Immune system
The body's natural defence mechanism against infectious diseases.
A process which gives immune resistance to a particular disease. The human or animal is exposed to a harmless antigen in order to raise antibodies and provide an immune memory.
A type of white blood cell that make antibodies to fight off infections.
A type of white blood cell that consumes dead pathogens that have been killed by antibodies.
Organism that feeds off another living host and causes it some damage. An example of a parasite is a tapeworm that lives in the digestive system of a host organism.
A micro-organism that causes disease.
Phagocytes are the white blood cells that protect the body by ingesting harmful foreign particles, bacteria, and dead or dying cells.
A polymer made up of amino acids joined by peptide bonds. The amino acids present and the order in which they occur vary from one protein to another.
Protozoa are one-celled animals
A spore is a reproductive structure that is adapted for dispersal and surviving for extended periods of time in unfavourable conditions.
A poisonous or toxic substance - produced by pathogens.
A small amount of dead or weakened pathogen is introduced into the body. It prepares the immune system to prevent future infections with the live pathogen.
Medicine that contains a dead or weakened pathogen. It stimulates the immune system so that the vaccinated person has an immunity against that particular disease.
The smallest of living organisms. Viruses are made up of a ball of protein that contains a small amount of the virus DNA. They can only reproduce after they have infected a host cell.
How well the drug works