Antimicrobial chemotherapy has many important uses in healthcare, including treating bacterial, viral, fungal, and parasitic infections. Side effects depend on the medication you receive, but they’re typically mild.

Microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi are all around us. It’s not always pleasant to think about, but these microorganisms live on the surfaces in your home, on the items you use every day, on your skin, and even inside your body.

Most of them aren’t harmful, and there’s a range of antimicrobial agents to help prevent and treat the ones that are. Antimicrobial agents include everything from hand sanitizer to antibiotics. They’re a huge tool in the fight against infection.

Antimicrobial chemotherapy is an umbrella term for antimicrobials that work inside your body. This means medications such as antibiotics, antivirals, and antifungals. Receiving the right antimicrobial chemotherapy treatment at the right time is a key part of infection control and treatment.

This article takes a closer look at antimicrobial chemotherapy, when and how it’s used, plus its potential side effects.

Antimicrobial agents are substances that can stop or slow the growth of microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, and pests.

Common antimicrobial agents include:

  • Pesticides: Pesticides help to kill and repel parasites and small insects such as fleas and ticks.
  • Sterilizers, sanitizers, and disinfectants: These antimicrobials are used to clean surfaces, clothes, hands, and other places microorganisms can live. They include common products like bleach, alcohol, antibacterial soaps, and hand sanitizer.
  • Medications: Antimicrobial medications include antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals, and antiparasitics.

The word “chemotherapy” is associated with cancer treatment, but it actually has a broader meaning. Chemotherapy means treating a disease with a specific chemical that’s designed to target the exact cause of that disease. So, chemotherapy for cancer is a treatment that uses very specific chemicals to target and kills cancer cells.

Chemotherapy can also refer to treatments that target bacteria, viruses, and other infectious microorganisms. This is called antimicrobial chemotherapy.

Antivirals, antiparasitics, antifungals, anthelmintics, and antiprotozoals also fall under the umbrella of antimicrobial chemotherapy.

Antimicrobial chemotherapy has many important uses in healthcare. Treating infections is one of the primary uses.

You might receive antimicrobial chemotherapy as a treatment for bacterial, viral, fungal, parasitic, or other types of infection.

The delivery of antimicrobial chemotherapy depends on the type and strength of antimicrobial chemotherapy you’re receiving. For instance, some bacterial infections are treated with intravenous (IV) antibiotics during an inpatient hospital stay.

It might take several rounds of antibiotics for an infection to clear up if it is severe or if the bacteria strain is antibiotic-resistant. Viral infections are sometimes treated with multiple injections given at regular intervals for a set number of days or even weeks.

Some antimicrobial chemotherapy can be taken at home as standard oral medications. Your specific infection and the severity of your symptoms will determine how your antimicrobial chemotherapy is delivered.

The side effects of antimicrobial chemotherapy are dependent on the exact type of antimicrobial chemotherapy you receive.

In general, antimicrobial chemotherapy is well-tolerated, and the side effects are mild. Common side effects seen in many types of antimicrobial chemotherapy include:

In most cases, these side effects resolve after a day or two. However, severe side effects are possible. Rarely, antimicrobial chemotherapy can lead to complications, including:

Antimicrobial chemotherapy is one of the most established treatments for infections. It’s used to successfully treat and cure illnesses in millions of people around the world every year.

It’s worth noting that not all infections respond to treatment. Some infections are severe, fast-spreading, or resistant to antimicrobial chemotherapy. But overall, antimicrobial chemotherapy is a very effective treatment.

About antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Because antibiotics have been overprescribed in the past several decades, some bacterial strains have become resistant to common antimicrobial chemotherapies.

For example, the bacteria strain Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus (MRSA) causes a severe infection that’s resistant to many different types of antibiotics. Medical researchers are working to develop new types of antimicrobial chemotherapy that can effectively treat these antibiotic-resistant strains.

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Antimicrobial agents are used to stop the spread of microbes. This can mean using bleach to disinfect the surfaces of your home, or taking medications to help stop an infection.

Antimicrobial chemotherapy is a broad term that includes all medications used to target bacteria, viruses, parasites, funguses, and other microorganisms that can cause infections in your body.

Antimicrobial chemotherapy can include everything from injected antiviral medications to at-home oral antibiotics.

Most antimicrobial chemotherapy treatment has a low risk of side effects, and the side effects that do occur are mild. However, it’s possible for serious and even life threatening side effects to occur.

Contact your doctor right away if you feel worse while receiving antimicrobial chemotherapy.