Principles of Antimicrobial Drug Action

  • David Edwards


The drugs which are active against microbial growth are of two types: those produced by micro-organisms, classed as antibiotics,and those which are synthetic. The antibiotics form the largest group and these may be defined as substances which, produced by micro-organisms, inhibit the growth of or kill other microorganisms. Even this is not a completely satisfactory definition since some microorganisms produce enzymes which are secreted extracellularly which can kill other cells, and other organisms produce protein factors which also can kill cells, for example the colicins, the killer factors of yeast and the kappa particles of Paramecium. Most antibiotics are secondary metabolites. These are substances which are produced at the end of the growth phase of micro-organisms in situations when the cells have stopped dividing (see figure 2.1).
Figure 2.1

Secondary metabolite (antibiotic) production during the growth phase of micro-organisms. The stippled area represents the zone of secondary metabolite production. A indicates the lag phase; B indicates the logarithmic or exponential phase; C indicates the stationary phase; D indicates the death phase.


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2.7 References and Further Reading

  1. Ames, B. N. and Hooper, K. (1978). Does carcinogenic potency correlate with mutagenic potency in the Ames assay? Nature, Lond., 274, 19–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ames, B. N., McCann, J. and Yamasaki, E. (1975). Mutation Res., 31, 347–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ames, B. N. Durston, W. E., Yamasaki, E. and Lee, F. D. (1973). Carcinogens are mutagens. A simple test system combining liver homogenates for activation and bacteria for detection. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 70, 2281–5CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ashby, J. and Styles, J. A. (1978a). Does carcinogenic potency correlate with mutagenic potency in the Ames assay? Nature, Lond., 271, 452–5CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Ashby, J. and Styles, J. A. (1978b). Factors influencing mutagenic potency in vitro. Nature, Lond., 274, 20–2CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cundliffe, E. (1978). Mechanism of resistance to thiostrepton in the producer organism Streptomyces azureus. Nature, Lond., 272, 792–5CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. DeFlora, S. (1978). Metabolic deactivation of mutagens in the Salmonella-microsome test. Nature, Lond., 271, 455–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Fuska, J. and Proska, D. (1976). Cytotoxic and antitumour antibiotics produced by micro-organisms. Adv. appl. Microbiol., 20, 259–370CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hewitt, W. (1977). Microbiological Assay-An Introduction to Quantitative Principles and Evaluation. Academic Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  10. Kavanagh, F. (1963/72). Analytical Microbiology. Academic Press, London, Vol.1 (1963), Vol.2 (1972)Google Scholar
  11. Meselson, M. and Russell, K. (1977). In Origins of Human Cancer. (H. H. Hiatt, J. D. Watson and J. A. Winston eds), Cold Spring Harbor Publications, New York, pp. 1473–82Google Scholar
  12. Schubert, J. (1970). Formation of cell growth inhibition by chemicals and environmental agents. J. gen. Microbiol., 64, 37–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Zähner, H. and Maas, W. K. (1972). Biology of Antibiotics. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelburg and New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© David Edwards 1980

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  • David Edwards

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