Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 52, Issue 4, pp 455–463 | Cite as

Pharmaceutically active secondary metabolites of microorganisms

  • A. L. Demain


The antibiotics have been useful in our battles against infectious bacteria and fungi for over 50 years. However, many antibiotics are used commercially, or are potentially useful, in medicine for activities other than their antibiotic action. They are used as antitumor agents, immunosuppressive agents, hypocholesterolemic agents, enzyme inhibitors, antimigraine agents, and antiparasitic agents. A number of these products were first discovered as antibiotics which failed in their development as such, or as mycotoxins. In addition to the above alternative applications, new powerful antibiotics have been discovered and commercialized in recent years and others are in clinical testing at the moment. A few successful secondary metabolites appear to have no antibiotic activity. The recently increased development of resistance to older antibacterial and antifungal drugs is being met with the use or clinical testing of older, underutilized or previously nondeveloped narrow-spectrum antibacterial products as well as powerful semisynthetic antifungal agents.


Enzyme Secondary Metabolite Enzyme Inhibitor Antifungal Agent Clinical Testing 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. L. Demain
    • 1
  1. 1.Fermentation Microbiology Laboratory, Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA e-mail: Tel.: +1-617-2531711 Fax: +1-617-2538699US

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