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.

8 Responses to “How do antibiotics kill bacteria?”

  1. CuriousCat: Drug Resistant Bacteria More Common
    August 17th, 2006 @ 3:52 pm

    This is another sign of the increasing health threat posed by drug resistant bacteria. The problem of drug resistant bacteria is made much worse by the improper use of anti-biotics…

  2. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » CDC Urges Increased Effort to Reduce Drug-Resistant Infections
    October 19th, 2006 @ 7:19 pm

    The US Center for Disease Control has again urged hospitals to increase efforts to reduce drug-resistant infections. In 1972, only 2 percent of these types of bacteria were drug resistant. By 2004, 63 percent of these types of bacteria had become resistant to the antibiotics commonly used to treat them…

  3. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Evolution In Action
    May 25th, 2007 @ 11:45 am

    technology advances continuing at an amazing pace allow for experiments we (at least I) can’t even imagine today to become common in just a few years…

  4. CuriousCat: Tuberculosis Risk
    June 3rd, 2007 @ 12:50 pm

    […] The risks are well known, given the extreme mobility in the world today, for TB, and other communicable diseases, becoming more troublesome, costly and deadly – often due to improper antibiotic use. But we continue to avoid giving this risk near the level of attention it seems to deserve. […]

  5. Curious Cat: Why is the Sky Blue?
    November 25th, 2007 @ 7:42 pm

    The part of the atmosphere that changes the Sun’s light is the molecules and tiny particles that are floating in it…

  6. CuriousCat: Disrupting the Replication of Bacteria
    February 23rd, 2008 @ 8:54 pm

    “Bacteria evolve quickly; some have already acquired resistance to all clinically relevant antibiotics,” says Filutowicz, professor of bacteriology in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. “We microbiologists have to respond with new ideas and new technologies to outsmart the evolving bugs.”

  7. Curious Cat Science Blog » How Bleach Kills Bacteria
    November 17th, 2008 @ 3:23 pm

    Jakob and her research team figured out that bleach and high temperatures have very similar effects on proteins. Just like heat, the hypochlorite in bleach causes proteins to lose their structure and form large aggregates…

  8. Antibiotic resistance: How do antibiotics kill bacteria? » Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog
    August 6th, 2011 @ 9:32 pm

    Many, if not most, antibiotics act by inhibiting the events necessary for bacterial growth. Some inhibit DNA replication, some, transcription, some antibiotics prevent bacteria from making proteins…

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