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Drugs

, Volume 34, Supplement 2, pp 1–14 | Cite as

Cephalosporins 1945–1986

  • E. P. Abraham
Article

Summary

In 1945, after penicillin had been introduced into medicine, an antibiotic-producing species of Cephalosporium was isolated from a sewage outfall in Sardinia. Four years later in Oxford, this organism was found to produce several antibiotics, one of which was a penicillin with a new side-chain, penicillin N. During a chemical study in 1953, this penicillin was shown to be contaminated with a second substance, cephalosporin C, which contained a β-lactam ring but was resistant to hydrolysis by a penicillinase (β-lactamase). At that time, penicillinase-producing Staphylococci were causing a serious problem in hospitals.

The isolation of the nucleus of cephalosporin C (7-ACA) enabled pharmaceutical manufacturers to produce many thousands of cephalosporins, some of which have been effective in the treatment of serious infections by a number of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. The cephalosporins, like the newer penicillins, have a very low toxicity and have greatly extended the range of chemotherapy. New, sensitive screening methods have revealed further families of clinically useful substances that contain a reactive β-lactam ring.

Genetic engineering has now begun to throw light on the nature of the enzymes that are involved in the biosynthesis of penicillins and cephalosporins, and x-ray crystallography may soon provide detailed 3-dimensional pictures of some of the bacterial enzymes with which the active β -lactam ring reacts. Rational approaches to the production and design of new and potentially useful compounds may then be within sight.

Keywords

Cephalosporin Cephalothin Cepha Cephaloridine Cefmenoxime 
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

© ADIS Press Limited 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. P. Abraham
    • 1
  1. 1.Sir William Dunn School of PathologyUniversity of OxfordOxfordEngland

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