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Understanding antibiotic resistance
Understanding antibiotic resistance

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1 Selective toxicity

As you saw in Video 1, Ehrlich’s seminal work on syphilis proved that ‘magic bullets’ existed. It also led to wide acceptance of the principle that drugs should demonstrate ‘selective toxicity’. That is, they target the disease-causing organism while causing no or minimal harm to the patient. This principle is still firmly entrenched in medical research and practice today (Valent et al., 2016).

Underpinning selective toxicity are the differences between pathogens and human or animal cells. It is these differences that antibiotics (and other drugs) exploit to exert their specific effects.