Cephalosporins for Infections in Cystic Fibrosis

Cephalosporins are a group of broad spectrum antibiotics that come from the mold Cephalosporium. They are classified according to their generation, depending on their antibacterial activity, their structure and their distinctive target (gram-positive organisms of 1st generation cephalosporins to methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus of the current 5th generation).

People with cystic fibrosis (CF) usually develop bacterial infections due to the build-up of thick, sticky mucus in their lungs, and cephalosporins are one of the antibiotics available for treating lung infections.

History of cephalosporins

Giuseppe Brotzu, an Italian scientist, discovered that cultures of Cephalosporium acremonium inhibited the growth of a variety of gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria in 1945. Later, working at Oxford, Guy Newton and Edward Abraham isolated and refined compounds until they discovered the nucleus of cephalosporins, 7-aminocephalosporic acid, which was the starting point for various their derivatives.

How cephalosporins work

The mechanism of action of cephalosporins is similar to that of penicillin: it interferes with bacterial cell wall synthesis. Bacterial cell walls contain peptidoglycans, which work is to keep external fluids and particles from entering those cells. By disrupting that synthesis, the antibiotic blocks the protein that links peptidoglycans, leaving bacterial cell walls open.

An imbalance within the cell results, and in a complex process referred to as lytic cell death, the bacteria dies.

Other details about cephalosporins

Cephalexin, cefdinir, cefprozil, and cefaclor are cephalosporins that treat Staphylococcus aureus infections and cefuroxime is used for Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections, which are common and drug-resistant infections in those with cystic fibrosis. They are usually taken orally as a tablet or a suspension every 12 hours for 5 to 10 days, depending on the condition being treated.

The most common adverse reactions are allergic and hypersensitivity reactions, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

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