Cephalosporins are a specific subtype of antibiotic. These medications have been used for the past few decades to treat a wide range of bacterial infections in people and animals. However, because not all bacteria are the same, you can’t use the same antibiotic on just any bacteria. Each category of antibiotic works just a little bit differently in an attempt to kill or limit the growth of bacteria which have invaded your body.
This article will take a look at cephalosporins and how they work to kill bacteria. As with any antibiotic, cephalosporins are available only with a prescription from your doctor. This is important because they are not effective in treating many infections (including some bacteria) and they can have side effects and interactions with other medications.
The cephalosporin family of antibiotics is quite large. In fact, they are broken in to four separate categories, called 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation cephalosporins. Each generation of these medications have different effectiveness on different types of bacteria, but they all work in essentially the same way. The mode of action of a cephalosporin is very similar to that for penicillins. Both cephalosporins and penicillins are called “beta-lactam” antibiotics.
Here’s how they all work. Remember that this is but the merest outline, the details of these reactions are actually quite complex. The outside of every bacterial cell wall contains some very particular substances. Cephalosporins interact with these structures and block the formation of new parts of the bacterial cell wall. If a bacterial cell is unable to make new parts of it’s cell wall, it cannot grow and reproduce. The cephalosporin does not directly kill the bacteria, contrary to popular thought. Rather, it inhibits growth and allows the body’s natural immune system to kill off the bacteria.
Because the cell wall of bacteria and the cell wall of a human cell are structurally different, the cephalosporin does not have the same negative effect on your cells as it does on the cells of the bacterial pathogen. Of course, antibiotics have some side effects, and do interact with your cells in some other minor ways.
As mentioned previously, cephalosporins are structurally similar to penicillin antibiotics. Because of this, people who are allergic to penicillin should also avoid using cephalosporins. Side effects of the two types of antibiotics tend to be somewhat similar as well. If you have questions about how cephalosporins work, or to find out more about how they are used, have a talk with your doctor or nurse.