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Could the Drugs You Take Actually Make You More Infectious and Increase the Spread of Disease?

img-stock-Flu-Prevention-Tips-InfographicA large number of illnesses are extremely infectious as they are caused by viruses; even some bacterial infections can spread rapidly. This has often led to epidemic or even pandemic situations in many countries, given the frequency of air travel.

Of these, respiratory ailments are the commonest and even if a flu vaccine is taken, there is no guarantee that you will be protected against all strains. Most people who suffer from flu, coughs and colds take aspirin or aspirin like drugs like ibuprofen or acetaminophen just so that they feel better and can continue with their daily lives. Children too are sent to school after taking fever reducing medications.

 Study pointing to greater infection rates

In a study titled Population-level effects of suppressing fever authored by David J. D. Earn, Paul W. Andrews, and Benjamin M. Bolker published on January 21, 2014, in the journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the authors carried out a data assessment based on different sources of information including human and animals, using a mathematical model. Their research came to startling conclusions.

The report said that contrary to popular belief, people who took fever reducing medicines actually became more infectious. While people may think that their fever is lower or has gone down and they are less infectious, the reverse is true – as fever goes down, virus transmission increases. When the findings are extrapolated to a larger population size, the findings are serious as they point to the fact that the illnesses spread very rapidly over larger numbers of people and result in more fatalities.

Another study points to the alternative treatment quandary

Pharmaceutical companies are always working towards breakthrough drugs to treat illnesses. Some firms are also looking at alternative ways that the disease can be treated. While the traditional cure for diseases is either killing off the bugs directly or preventing their growth (bactericidal or bacteriostatic) the newer methods focuses on the symptoms. By limiting or treating the symptoms instead of the actual bacteria are damage limitation therapies. They emphasize the body’s own immune system, helping it to stave off serious effects of the disease, buying time as it were.

This has come about as evidence of growing antibiotic resistance emerges. After all, when disease causing bugs get stronger, they need stronger antibiotics to work and some infections become resistant to all kinds of antibiotics.

Dr Pedro Vale, Research Fellow at the Centre for Immunity, Infection, and Evolution at the University of Edinburgh worked on the research, which has been published on January 21, 2014, in the journal PLoS Biology. Like the other study, this study, too, uses mathematical models and it has come to a similar conclusion. Taking a different treatment option that actually gets rid of symptoms may actually increase the spread of the disease, rather than control it. Not only that, but when people feel better, they may not even get their disease diagnosed, thus missing out on proper treatment apart from contributing to greater spread of the disease.

Before you reach out for that remedy that will make you feel better, think whether you are actually contributing to the spread of the disease.


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About Rob Flack

This post was written by on Saturday, January 25, 2014. This author has written 34 posts on this blog and has 40688 total posts views.

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