Penicillin antibiotics: flight of a "magic bullet"

Penicillin antibiotics are a group of antibacterial substances produced by a fungus culture of the genus Penicillium. Today they are an effective tool for chemo-and antibiotic therapy. Just like cephalosporins, penicillin antibiotics belong to the category of beta-lactam drugs. Having a strong bactericidal action and a high degree of activity against gram-positive microorganisms, they have a quick and extremely powerful effect, affecting pathogens mainly in the proliferation phase.

A characteristic feature of the drugs of this group is their ability to penetrate into living cells and have a neutralizing effect on the causative agents that have settled within them. This trait relates antibiotics-cephalosporins with penicillins, in comparison with which they have a somewhat greater resistance to beta-lactamases - the special protective enzymes produced by pathogens.

The discovery of penicillin by the efforts of the English microbiologist Alexander Fleming in 1929 produced one of the greatest revolutions in medicine. It became possible to effectively treat a variety of diseases that until then were considered deadly - for example, pneumonia. And the role of penicillin in the Second World War in general is grandiose and worthy of a separate scientific study.

For the first time the ideas of searching for a substance harmful to microorganisms, but absolutely safe for humans, were formulated and implemented at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries by the founder of chemotherapy Paul Ehrlich. Such a substance, according to his apt remark, is like a "magic bullet". Such chemical compounds were soon found among the derivatives of some synthetic dyes. Having received the name "chemotherapy", they became widely used in the treatment of syphilis. And although they were very far from efficiency and safety to modern penicillins, they were the first precursors of antibiotic therapy in the modern view.

Current penicillin antibiotics are shown to be highly effective against anaerobic microorganisms. This is especially true of the so-called superpenicillins (azlocillin, piperacillin, mezlocillin and others), as well as third-generation cephalosporins, which are often used to prevent possible postoperative complications. Today, powerful antibiotics of the penicillin group are used to treat children, pregnant women, the elderly, patients suffering from kidney failure and various types of acute nonspecific epididymitis.

Despite all the achievements of modern pharmacology and the relative perfection of penicillin preparations, Paul Erlich's cherished dream of an "ideal magical pool" is unlikely to be realized someday, since even table salt in excessive amounts is harmful. What can we say about such powerful and dangerous drugs as penicillin antibiotics! The side effects of these antibacterial agents should include the possibility of developing various allergic, toxic reactions and abnormal gastrointestinal function.

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