How do antibiotics kill bacteria?
Posted on July 25, 2006 Comments (8)
How do antibiotics kill bacterial cells but not human cells? (pointy haired bosses (phb) at Scientific American broke the link so I removed it – see links in comments below that are not broken by phb behavior)
Most bacteria produce a cell wall that is composed partly of a macromolecule called peptidoglycan, itself made up of amino sugars and short peptides. Human cells do not make or need peptidoglycan. Penicillin, one of the first antibiotics to be used widely, prevents the final cross-linking step, or transpeptidation, in assembly of this macromolecule. The result is a very fragile cell wall that bursts, killing the bacterium.
Read more blog posts on antibiotics and on health care.