How do antibiotics work? Antibiotics work through the concept of

Antibiotics, sometimes known as antibacterials, are drugs that either kill bacteria or stop their growth. Alexander Fleming discovered the first antibiotic – penicillin – in the 1920s. Penicillin was used for the first time during World War II. “Of all the weapons developed during World War II, penicillin was probably the most important” (Oatman, 2005). Since that time antibiotics have saved countless lives; it is impossible to know the exact number, but penicillin alone is credited with saving between 100-200 million lives since its discovery. Antibiotics save lives by treating infections, but also by preventing them. Surgery and childbirth would be far riskier without them. Antibiotics are powerful, important drugs in our war against infectious disease, but how do they work? That is the subject of this first discussion, where we will focus on how antibiotics work in general, and specifically, how penicillin works.

Oatman, E. (2005.) The drug that changed the world. P&S: The College of Physicians & Surgeons of Columbia University, 25(1). Retrieved from


Answer this question: How do antibiotics work? Antibiotics work through the concept of selective toxicity. For your response, research the concept of selective toxicity, and use your knowledge of bacterial and eukaryal cell structure, gained from the text readings and Exploration page, to answer the question. Make sure you write down the sources you use for your research.

Start your discussion post with a definition of selective toxicity in your own words and a paragraph outlining possible antibiotic targets of bacterial cells.

Your next paragraph will focus on penicillin. You should find one to two reliable sources that discuss how penicillin works. Focus on the structure that penicillin targets, and discuss how this relates to selective toxicity.

Finally, consider how you could use the scientific method to learn about how antibiotics work. What questions would you want to research? What is your hypothesis?  

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