With so many terms used to describe infection-fighting agents, it’s easy to get confused. Here’s what you need to know:
- Antimicrobial—An antimicrobial is a class of drug that treats infections caused by a variety of germs (microbes), including bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa, and helminths (worms). The antimicrobial class includes antibiotics, antivirals, and antifungals.
- Antibiotic—An antibiotic targets infections caused by bacteria. Though technically not the same, the terms antimicrobials and antibiotics are often used interchangeably.
- Antifungal—An antifungal targets infections caused by fungi. Some antibiotics also target certain fungal diseases.
- Antiviral—An antiviral targets viruses. Most are designed to treat specific viral infections.
This article first appeared in the February 2020 issue of UC Berkeley Health After 50.
Published February 18, 2020