Antibiotic: A drug used to treat bacterial infections. Antibiotics have no effect on viral infections. Originally, an antibiotic was a substance produced by one microorganism that selectively inhibits the growth of another. Synthetic antibiotics, usually chemically related to natural antibiotics, have since been produced that accomplish comparable tasks.
In 1926, Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, a substance produced by fungi that appeared able to inhibit bacterial growth. In 1939, Edward Chain and Howard Florey further studied penicillin and later carried out trials of penicillin on humans (with what were deemed fatal bacterial infections). Fleming, Florey and Chain shared the Nobel Prize in 1945 for their work which ushered in the era of antibiotics.
Another antibiotic, for example, is tetracycline, a broad-spectrum agent effective against a wide variety of bacteria including Hemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Chlamydia psittaci, Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria gonorrhoea, and many others. The first drug of the tetracycline family, chlortetracycline, was introduced in 1948.
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Last Editorial Review: 5/13/2016