Definition of Agent, antibiotic

Agent, antibiotic: A drug used to treat bacterial infections.

The original definition of an antibiotic was a substance produced by one microorganism that selectively inhibits the growth of another microorganism. However, wholly synthetic antibiotics (usually chemically related to natural antibiotics) have since been produced that accomplish comparable tasks.

In 1926, Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, a substance produced by fungi that appeared able to inhibit bacterial growth. In 1939, Edward Chain and Howard Florey further studied penicillin and later carried out trials of penicillin on humans (with what were deemed fatal bacterial infections). Fleming, Florey and Chain shared the Nobel Prize in 1945 for their work which ushered in the era of antibiotics.

Another antibiotic, for example, is tetracycline (brand names: ACHROMYCIN and SUMYCIN), a broad-spectrum agent effective against a wide variety of bacteria including Hemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Chlamydia psittaci, Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, and many others. The first drug of the tetracycline family, chlortetracycline, was introduced in 1948.


Last Editorial Review: 6/14/2012

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