Understanding antibiotic resistance
Understanding antibiotic resistance

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

Understanding antibiotic resistance

2.2 Producing synthetic and semi-synthetic antibiotics

Antibiotics are very complex molecules. Synthetic compounds that resemble or mimic a natural antibiotic are rarely made for this reason. An exception is chloramphenicol (Figure 3). Novel synthetic antibiotics can be made in laboratories from scratch using a multi-step process that starts with the requisite chemical building blocks and ends with the pure compound. However, this process involves considerable development time and production costs.

Described image
Figure 3 First synthesis of chloramphenicol in 1949. Originally isolated from Streptomyces venezuelae in 1947, it is cheaper to synthesise this relatively simple antibiotic than to produce the natural compound. You do not need to study this figure in detail.

Semi-synthetic antibiotics represent a half-way house. They are made by chemically modifying the active part of a natural antibiotic to create a single new molecule. A large amount of natural antibiotic is produced by batch fermentation. Then it is purified and chemically modified to create new antibiotics with enhanced therapeutic activity. Promising compounds identified by screening chemical libraries can similarly be modified to enhance activity and safety.

Next, you will find out how many existing antibiotics are still effective against bacterial infection.

UAR_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has nearly 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus