This is a huge misconception. Antibiotics can only treat bacterial infections. The common cold and the flu are caused by viruses, and so antibiotics have absolutely no affect on them. Similarly, diseases like malaria, which are caused by a kingdom of life known as the protists, and infections like thrush or tinea, which are caused by fungi, cannot be treated by antibiotics either. Trying to treat these kinds of infections with antibiotics will not only have no effect, but can cause resistant bacteria already present in the body to become prevalent and spread amongst family, friends and the public (Ventola, 2015). Furthermore, the use of antibiotics can also cause helpful bacteria in the body to die, leading to adverse side-effects that can range from diarrhea, to growth of opportunistic bacteria like Clostridium difficile (Langdon, et.al, 2016). However, diseases like the common cold or flu can be followed by secondary infections that are caused by bacteria. Taking antibiotics, in this case, would treat the secondary bacterial infection, but the cold or flu would still persist. It is therefore extremely important to take antibiotics only when prescribed, so as to ensure they are taken for the correct disease (12,13).
Escherichia coli (E. coli) are found naturally living in the human gut with no ill-effect and contribute to the breakdown of indigestible food, the production of essential vitamins, like vitamin K, and the defence of our gut from pathogens (Blount, 2015). Only some strains of E. coli are dangerous to people, like the deadly O157H7 strain that causes food poisoning, or the various strains involved in urinary tract infections (Katouli, 2010; Torso, et.al, 2015). E. coli are actually very useful bacteria in terms of science and have been used extensively in synthetic biology research. They are extremely well studied and easily manipulated, and are the reason for many hallmark discoveries and technologies, such as the elucidation of the genetic code and the production of insulin for diabetics (Blount, 2015). So while E. coli found in burgers or other contaminated products should be given a wide berth, the majority of E. coli are humanity’s friends and have had a hand in saving millions of lives (14,15,16).