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Understanding antibiotic resistance
Understanding antibiotic resistance

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2 Antibiotic modes of action

This section focuses on the four main modes of antibiotic action that lead to inhibition of one of the following:

  • cell wall synthesis
  • protein synthesis
  • nucleic acid synthesis
  • metabolic reactions.

Don’t worry if you don’t understand all of these terms, as they will be explained in the next sections.

A simplified 3D diagram of a prokaryotic bacterial cells as described in Figure 1 part (b).
Figure 2 Main antibiotic modes of action.

Members of the same class of antibiotics share a characteristic structural feature that determines the drug’s affinity and specificity for target molecules in susceptible bacteria. You will now look in more detail at antibiotics that exemplify each of these four main modes of action.