Mode of action

Penicillins work by targeting and binding to the enzymes responsible for bacterial cell-wall synthesis. All pathogenic bacteria possess these enzymes, although the susceptibility of the enzymes can differ, depending on the affinity of the target enzymes to the antibiotic. The action of penicillins can lead to a weakening in the bacterial cell wall, causing lysis (death) of the bacterial cell. However, in some cases this effect can be slow, and thus the penicillin may have a more bacteriostatic effect.

Some bacterial enzymes have acquired resistance to penicillins owing to the production of an enzyme called beta-lactamase that can inactivate penicillins.

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