Penicillin antibiotics are used to treat many bacterial infections. Penicillins are bactericidal, which means that they actually destroy the bacteria causing infection. Most other types of antibiotic work by altering chemical activity in the bacteria, thereby preventing them from reproducing. The immune system is then able to overcome the remaining infection.
Bacteria are single-celled organisms that have protective cell walls. The penicillin enters the bacterium, beginning a process that will destroy it.
The drug interferes with chemicals needed by the bacterium to form its cell walls. This causes the cell walls to disintegrate, and the bacterium dies.
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.
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