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Old Monday, August 04, 2008
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Smile about Antibiotics

Antibiotics are substances that inhibit the growth of microorganisms (anti-metabolites) or their replication (a bacteriostatic effect). They were traditionally obtained by extracting them from cultures of microbes. However, most drugs on the market today are semisynthetic derivatives of natural products. Sulfa drugs, discovered in the 1930s, were the first antimicrobial agents put into clinical use. Unfortunately, many bacteria are not susceptible to sulfonamides, and with the outbreak of World War II came the need for other more potent antibacterial agents. The serendipitous discovery of penicillin is, without a doubt, the most celebrated breakthrough in the history of antibiotics. In the late 1920s, while working in a London hospital, Alexander Fleming observed a mold overtaking a culture of staphylococcus bacteria he was growing in his laboratory. He extracted juices from the mold and, in 1929, reported that the extract, which he called penicillin, had antiseptic (anti-infectious) activity. The fungus was subsequently identified as Penicillium notatum (now called Penicillium chrysogenum). It was not until the 1940s that penicillin was put into clinical use. Howard W. Florey, professor of pathology at Oxford's Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, and Ernst B. Chain are credited with culturing the fungus and producing the first significant quantities of penicillin for treating bacterial infections. In 1945 Fleming, Florey, and Chain received the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine "for the discovery of penicillin and its curative effect in various infectious diseases. "A bottle of Amoxil, one brand name of semisynthetic penicillin amoxicillin.

Extracts from microorganisms are still an important source of antibiotics today. Clinically, antibiotics are described as possessing either broad- or narrow-spectrum activity. Bacteria are classified based on a staining technique developed by Danish microbiologist Hans Christian Gram. The bacterial cell walls of gram-positive bacteria stain blue when treated with either crystal violet or methylene blue, while gram-negative bacteria do not retain the stain and appear red. Broad-spectrum antibiotics are capable of inhibiting both gram-positive and gram-negative bacterial cultures. Grampositive bacteria have simpler cell walls than gram-negative strains and are susceptible to less toxic, narrow-spectrum antibiotics.

Last edited by Princess Royal; Monday, August 04, 2008 at 10:08 AM.
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