How Antibiotics Kill Bacteria

Posted on December 10, 2008  Comments (1)

How Antibiotics Kill Bacteria

Since the first antibiotics reached the pharmacy in the 1940s, researchers discovered that they target various pieces of machinery in bacterial cells, disrupting the bacteria’s ability to build new proteins, DNA, or cell wall. But these effects alone do not cause death, and a complete explanation of what actually kills bacteria after they are exposed to antibiotics has eluded scientists.

The group found that all bactericidal antibiotics, regardless of their initial targets inside bacteria, caused E. coli to produce unstable chemicals called hydroxyl radicals. These compounds react with proteins, DNA, and lipids inside cells, causing widespread damage and rapid death for the bacteria.

With the results of these two experiments, the researchers were able to identify three major processes implicated in gentamicin-induced cell death: protein transport, a stress response triggered by abnormal proteins in the cell membrane, and a metabolic stress response.

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One Response to “How Antibiotics Kill Bacteria”

  1. Joan
    January 16th, 2009 @ 3:51 pm

    Good article! I would like to add one more thing regarding the mode of action of these drugs, and that is-they also kill bacteria by inhibiting the formation of peptides required for bacterial cell wall formation. Loss of cell wall kills bacteria instantaneously as it acts like a protective shield for them (just like our skin serves us).

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