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Chapter 3. A Survey of Antibiotics > Antibacterial Agents May Have a Generalize...

Antibacterial Agents May Have a Generalized Effect

Antibacterials act by binding specific targets and then corrupting specific biochemical processes. However, they also appear to stimulate a bacterial suicide process that amplifies the effect of the antibacterial. Recent work indicates that some lethal action arises through a response of bacteria to lethal stress in which peroxides accumulate and then decay to form toxic molecules called hydroxyl radicals.71,72,73 Hydroxyl radicals last only a fraction of a second, but during that time they can break nearby macromolecules. Small molecules are available that block formation of hydroxyl radicals. Treatment of E. coli with these agents almost completely protects the bacterium from the lethal action of oxolinic acid, an early type of quinolone. Thus, the idea is emerging that lethal signals caused by antibiotics trigger a cascade of reactive oxygen species that are responsible for much of the cell death.


  

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