The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Global Security Studies

Living Edition
| Editors: Scott Romaniuk, Manish Thapa, Péter Marton


  • Peter PopellaEmail author
Living reference work entry


Antibiotics are low-molecular substances, which exhibit a harmful effect on bacterial cells. As other anti-infective agents, e.g., antivirals (targeting viruses) or antihelminthics (targeting parasitic worms), antibiotics are used as drugs to treat humans in the context of infections with bacterial pathogens. However, pets and livestock are also treated with antibiotics to cure and prevent bacterial infections. Antibiotics should be differentiated from antiseptics, which are used as prophylaxis to remove bacteria from living tissue like the human skin, and disinfectants, which are applied to reduce the bacterial load on nonliving objects (McDonnell and Russell 1999).

A Brief History of Antibiotics

Herbal medicines and the application of molds for the treatment of sickness have been traced back to ancient cultures, e.g., the Nubians in 300 BC (Nelson et al. 2010). However, the conscious application of pure antibiotics as drugs is a rather recent development. The German...


Antibiotics Anti-infectives Antimicrobials Drugs Infection Bacteria 
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Further Reading

  1. Flandroy, L., Poutahidis, T., int, & Rook, G. (2018). The impact of human activities and lifestyles on the interlinked microbiota and health of humans and of ecosystems. Science of the Total Environment, 627, 1018–1038. Scholar
  2. Jason, C., & Gallagher, C. M. (2017). Antibiotics simplified (4th ed.). Burlington: Jones & Bartlett Learning. ISBN-10: 1284111296.Google Scholar
  3. Walsh, F. (2013). The multiple roles of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance in nature. Frontiers in Microbiology, 4, 255. Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Interfaculty Institute of Microbiology and Infection Medicine (IMIT)University of TuebingenTuebingenGermany