Antibacterial Action on Cell Walls
Why is the bacterial cell wall a
good target for antibacterial action?
Once the cell wall is there it is not a good target,
but the enzymes that produce bacterial cell walls are
very specific, and sensitive to specific inhibitors.
In that way we can produce specific antibiotics that
are harmless to our own cells. These antibiotics are
bacteriostatic (they stop bacyteria from growing) in
stead of bacteriocidic (killing existing bacteria).
That can be of key importance, since dead bacteria may
release highly toxic compounds in vaste amounts. In
other words, killing all pathogenic bacteria present
in your body during a serious infection (like sepsis)
can be life-threatening. In that case it is better to
stop the bacteria from multiplying, and let the body
cope with the existing bugs.
Bacteria cannot properly divide unless they can make new walls. So
inhibiting the production of new cell wall (as ampicillin does, for example)
is one way of preventing bacteria from multiplying. Drugs such as
ampicillin do not kill bacteria - they only prevent them from dividing. Our
bodies' defenses then can kill the original bacteria without having to worry
about their tremendously rapid rate of multiplication.
Because it's easy to reach. If you target something INSIDE the bacterium,
you have to somehow get there.
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Update: June 2012