Antibiotics and vaccines are both used to fight germs but they work in different ways. While vaccines are used to prevent disease, antibiotics are used to treat diseases that have already occurred. In addition, antibiotics do not work on viruses or viral illnesses such as common cold or flu.
|Definition||Antibiotics are small molecules or compounds that are effective in treating infections caused by organisms such as bacteria, fungi and protozoa.||Vaccines are dead or inactivated organisms or compounds that are used to provide immunity to a particular infection or disease.|
|Types||Antibiotics are classified according to their structure and mechanism of action into 3 classes: cyclic lipopeptides, oxazolidinones & glycylcyclines. The first 2 are targeted at Gram positive infections and the last one is a broad spectrum antibiotic||Vaccines are of different types-live and attenuated (vaccines against chicken pox), inactivated (BCG vaccine), subunit (Hepatitis C), toxoid, conjugate, DNA , recombinant vector vaccines and other experimental vaccines.|
|Side effects||Some antibiotics may have side effects like diarrhea, nausea and allergic reactions.||Some vaccines may cause allergic reactions.|
|Source||Antibiotics can be derived from natural, semi-synthetic and synthetic sources.||Sources of vaccines include live or inactivated microbes, toxins, antigens, etc.|
Antibiotics are compounds that are effective in treating infections caused by organisms such as bacteria, fungi and protozoa. Antibiotics are mostly small molecules, less than 2000 Daltons. Vaccines are compounds that are used to provide immunity to a particular disease. Vaccines are usually dead or inactivated organism or compounds purified from them.
Here is a video showing how our immune system works with respect to the vaccines and antibodies:
Differences in Sources
Antibiotics can be derived from natural, semi-synthetic and synthetic sources and source of vaccines include live or inactivated microbes, toxins, antigens, etc.
Vaccines are usually derived from the very germs the vaccine is designed to protect against. A vaccine typically contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism, and is often made from weakened or killed forms of the microbe. The agent stimulates the body's immune system to recognize the agent as foreign, destroy it, and "remember" it, so that the immune system can more easily recognize and destroy any of these microorganisms that it later encounters.
Different Types of Antibiotics and Vaccines
Types of Antibiotics
Classification according to effect on Bacteria
Antibiotics are mainly of two types, those that kill bacteria (bactericidal) and those that inhibit bacterial growth (Bacteriostatic). These compounds are classified according to their structure and mechanism of action, for instance antibiotics can target bacterial cell wall, cell membrane, or interferes with the bacterial enzymes or important processes such as protein synthesis.
Classification based on source
Besides this classification, antibiotics are also grouped into natural, semi-synthetic and synthetic types depending on whether it is derived from living organisms, like aminoglycosides, modified compounds like beta-lactams — e.g., penicillin — or purely synthetic, such as sulfonamides, quinolones and oxazolidinones.
Classification based on bacteria spectrum
Narrow spectrum antibiotics affect particular bacteria whereas large spectrum antibiotics affect a wide range of bacteria. In the recent years, antibiotics have been classified into three classes, cyclic lipopeptides, oxazolidinones and glycylcyclines. The former two are targeted at gram-positive infections whereas the last one is a broad spectrum antibiotic, treating many different types of bacteria.
Types of Vaccines
Vaccines are of different types-live and attenuated, inactivated subunit, toxoid, conjugate, DNA, recombinant vector vaccines and other experimental vaccines.
Live, attenuated vaccines are weakened microbes that help cause lifelong immunity by eliciting a strong immune response. A huge disadvantage of this type of vaccine is that because the virus is live, it can mutate and cause severe reactions in people with a weak immune system. Another limitation of this vaccine is that it has to be refrigerated to stay potent. Examples for this type include vaccines against chicken pox, measles and mumps.
Inactivated vaccines are dead microbes and safer than live vaccines, though these elicit a weaker immune response, and often have to be followed by booster shots. The DTap and Tdap vaccines are inactivated vaccines.
Subunit vaccines include only subunits or antigens or epitopes (1 to 20) that can evoke an immune response. Example of this type includes vaccine against hepatitis C virus.
Toxoid vaccines are used in case of infections where organisms secrete harmful toxins in the body of the host. Vaccines with “detoxified” toxins are used in this type.
Conjugate vaccines are used for bacteria that possess a polysaccharide coating that is not immunogenic or recognized by the immune system. In these vaccines, an antigen is added to a polysaccharide coating to enable the body to produce an immune response against it.
Recombinant vector vaccines use the physiology of one organism and DNA of another to target complex infections.
DNA vaccines are developed by inserting the infective agent’s DNA into human or animal cell. The immune system is thus able to recognize and develop immunity against the organism’s proteins. Though, this is still at the experimental stage, the effect of these types of vaccines promises to last longer and can be easily stored.
Other experimental vaccines include Dendritic cell vaccines, and T-cell receptor peptide vaccines.
Administration of Vaccines vs. Antibiotics
Antibiotics are usually given orally, intravenously or topically. The course may last from a minimum of 3-5 days or longer depending on the type and severity of the infection.
A large number of vaccines and their booster shots are usually scheduled before the age of two for children. In the United States, routine vaccinations for children include those against hepatitis A, B, polio, mumps, measles, rubella, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, chickenpox, rotavirus, influenza, meningococcal disease and pneumonia. This routine might differ in other countries and is continually being updated. Vaccinations for other infections such as shingles, HPV are also available.
Though antibiotics are not considered unsafe, these compounds may cause certain adverse reactions. These include, fever, nausea, diarrhoea and allergic reactions. Antibiotics may cause severe reactions when taken in combination with another drug or alcohol. Antibiotics also tend to kill the "good" bacteria, whose presence in the body — especially the gut — is important for health.
There have been many disputes, over the effectiveness, and ethical and safety aspects of using vaccines in the past. For example, a study published in June 2014 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that the combination measles–mumps–rubella–varicella (MMRV) vaccine doubles the risk of febrile seizures in toddlers when compared with administration of separate MMR and varicella vaccines (MMR+V).
Under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (NCVIA), federal law requires that Vaccine Information Statements (VIS) be distributed to patients or their parents whenever certain vaccines are administered. The CDC maintains that vaccines now produced meet very high safety standards so that the overall benefit and protection vaccines offer against diseases far outweighs any adverse reactions it might have in some individuals.
Even before the concept of germs and diseases was understood, people in Egypt, India and the natives in America used molds to treat certain infections. The first breakthrough in antibiotics came with the discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928. This was followed by the discovery of sulfa drugs, streptomycin, tetracycline, and many others antibiotics to combat different microbes and diseases.
The earliest reports of vaccines seem to have originated from India and China in the 17th century and recorded in Ayurvedic texts. The first description of a successful vaccination procedure came from Dr. Emmanuel Timoni in 1724, followed by Edward Jenner’s independent description, half a century later, of a method for vaccinating humans against small pox. This technique was further developed by Louis Pasteur during the 19th century to produce vaccines against anthrax and rabies. Since then attempts have been made to develop more vaccines against many more diseases.