Antibiotics have been shown to be as effective as surgery in many cases of appendicitis in adults. A recent review shows the same effectiveness in children.
This does not mean that antibiotics should be used for any little tummy ache. Indiscriminate use of antibiotics leads to antibiotic resistance. It also doesn’t mean that all cases of acute appendicitis should be treated with antibiotics.
Although cases treated with antibiotics did just as well as the patients who underwent surgery, the medication-treated people had a 14% chance of a recurrent episode of appendicitis. Some of those did ultimately have surgery after all.
Another surprising use of antibiotics is in cancer. Certain antibiotics have also been shown to significantly increase survival in lung cancer patients and leukemia patients. These treatments harness a common side effect of some antibiotics that harm the cell’s energy-producing units, called mitochondria. It turns out that the mitochondria in every human cell probably evolved from bacteria billions of years ago. The antibiotics are thought to attack the mitochondria of cancer stem cells, potentially killing the tumor at its roots.
An unexpected source of antibiotics is the hair of the sloth, the slow moving mammal found in the wilds of Central and South America. A fungus growing on the sloth hair inhibits bacterial growth, but also acts against the malaria parasite and some viruses, as well as inhibiting growth of breast cancer cells.
Antibiotics right in your kitchen include garlic, with its ingredient allicin being under investigation by drug companies to be the basis of a new drug. An oil from the oregano plant, carvacrol, appears to be the active ingredient for its antibacterial effect. Sulfur compounds derived from fermented cabbage inhibit the growth several species of bacteria. Turmeric extracts inhibit growth of the common bacteria Staph aureus and E coli. Celery seed, cumin, fennel seed, basil, and rosemary also have antibacterial actions.
Tip for the smart consumer: Find out more about the rational use of antibiotics in No-Nonsense Guide To Antibiotics: Dangers, Benefits & Proper Use by Moira Dolan, MD