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Problems associated with the use of the term “antibiotics”

Abstract: The term “antibiotics” is a broadly used misnomer to designate antibacterial drugs. In a recent article, we have proposed to replace, e.g., the term “antibiotics” by “antibacterial drugs”, “antibiosis” by “antibacterial therapy”, “antibiogram” by “antibacteriogram”, and “antibiotic stewardship” by “antibacterial stewardship” (Seifert and Schirmer Trends Microbiol, 2021). In the present article, we show that many traditional terms related to antibiotics are used much more widely in the biomedical literature than the respective scientifically precise terms. This practice should be stopped. Moreover, we provide arguments to end the use of other broadly used terms in the biomedical literature such as “narrow-spectrum antibiotics” and “reserve antibiotics”, “chemotherapeutics”, and “tuberculostatics”. Finally, we provide several examples showing that antibacterial drugs are used for non-antibacterial indications and that some non-antibacterial drugs are used for antibacterial indications now. Thus, the increasing importance of drug repurposing renders it important to drop short designations of drug classes such as “antibiotics”. Rather, the term “drug” should be explicitly used, facilitating the inclusion of newly emerging indications such as antipsychotic and anti-inflammatory. This article is part of an effort to implement a new rational nomenclature of drug classes across the entire field of pharmacology.
Keywords: Antibiotics / Antibiogram / Antibiotic stewardship / Broad-spectrum antibiotics / Reserve antibiotics / Chemotherapeutics

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