How Antibiotics Work

An antibiotic is a medication used specifically to treat bacterial infections. Antibiotics work by attacking the structures and functions inside bacterial cells, but have no effect against viruses. They kill or slow the growth of bacteria by attaching to specific targets on, or within bacteria.(1)

Therefore, antibiotics are used for infections that:(1)

  • are unlikely to be cured without antibiotics
  • could infect others unless treated
  • need treatment to be cured or can take too long to clear
  • carry risks of serious complications

Help Protect the Effectiveness of Antibiotics:
Why is this important?

Antibiotics work by killing bacteria. If you don’t take your antibiotics properly, the bacteria may survive and become resistant to the medications.(2)
If antibiotics no longer work, people may die and routine operations in hospitals will become increasingly dangerous or impossible.(2)


  1. NHS. Antibiotics Overview. Available at: Accessed 31 December 2018.
  2. Public Health England Resources Toolkit for Healthcare Professionals in England.
    Available at:
    Accessed 31 December 2018.

PP-CPF-IND-0009 | 11th January 2019