What are antibiotics made from? What are the actual ingredients?


What are antibiotics made from? What are the actual ingredients?

In: 5

Depends. For example, penicillin is made by growing penicillium mold, which naturally produces penicillin. Then they might add some preservatives or stabilizers to it to make it shelf stable. But in general medicines contain organic ingredients and inorganic ingredients. Organic ingredients are typically by products from plants, animals, bacteria, etc. And inorganic materials are typically used to make the medicine stay together and easier to store and transport.

An antibiotic like amoxicillin is just a combination/arrangement of 16 carbon atoms, 19 hydrogen atoms, 3 nitrogen atoms, 5 oxygen atoms and a sulfur atom per molecule.

Compared to simple sugar (glucose), it only has the nitrogen and sulfur extra.

There is nothing inside it that your body doesn’t see on a daily basis – it’s based on the old penicillin mold you’ve probably heard of, but with select things taken out to simplify it.

It kills bacteria just because it can stick to their cell walls.

About 60 minutes after you’ve taken one of these tablets, half of it is already “eliminated”, meaning sweat, urine and/or breathing it out – 60 minutes later, another half is gone.

Antibiotics are a natural or artificial chemical that selectively kills bacteria and can be delivered into a living body without killing the patient. The first antibiotics (like penicillin) were identified as being produced by other living things – molds that were competing with bacteria for food, or plants that were preventing bacterial infection.

Other antibiotics were found – some were chemical modifications of existing antibiotics, others were identified by investigating the molecular functioning of bacteria.

This gives us a couple of approaches to mass production of antibiotics.

The first was used to produce penicillin – selection of the original mold, selective breeding to get higher output of penicillin, and large growth tanks from which penicillin was purified. This is slow, and during the first few trials of penicillin, they collected the urine of the patient to purify the excreted penicillin for reuse. Now, such biologically-sourced antibiotics would be synthesized in a production facility, or the genes for the antibiotic would be inserted into a suitable organism that can be grown easily and produces high yield output.

The second approach is synthesis from feedstock. Organic chemists use a variety of complex synthesis steps on various starting precursors (many initially extracted from crude oil as part of the refining process) to create the complex molecules that form antibiotics. This is faster than using genetically modified organisms to produce output, but can also be complex, delicate and dangerous – the conditions required for some organic chemistry reactions involve reactive chemicals and high temperatures. There may be multiple refining/cleaning steps and quality checking the end product is vital.

The actual medication you take will be an active antibiotic, usually a filler to bulk out the pill, maybe a release control coating or layers, and possibly additives that enhance or assist the antibiotic effects.

It depends on the particular drug. Penicillin, for example, is made by the mold *P. chrysogenum*, which produces it naturally when fermented in large tanks: the process is similar to making beer. Many antibiotics are produced this way, using different molds or sometimes bacteria.

Not all antibiotics are fermented, though. Some of them start with a fermented antibiotic, but then add additional ingredients. These are called semi-synthetic antibiotics. For example, if you have the right setup you can make ampicillin from penicillin and d-phenylglycine methyl ester, which is an amino acid similar to the ones that make up the proteins in our cells. Ampicillin, although it’s produced from penicillin, works better against different kinds of bacteria than penicillin does, which is part of why they’re both still useful.

There are also antibiotics that are made completely in the lab: synthetic antibiotics. For example, nalixidic acid, which is chemically related to chloroquine, starts with 2-AMINO-6-METHYLPYRIDINE (another one of those amino acids) and adds malonic acid (which occurs in many fruits and vegetables) and after a few more processes adds ethyl bromide (which is a scary chemical on its own, but the process of producing the antibiotic breaks it up into safer components, some of which are incorporated into the drug). This antibiotic, much like ampicillin, works better in different situations than penicillin does.

Please understand that I’ve grossly oversimplified the processes here. You can’t just throw these ingredients into a pot and expect them to work: much like cooking, there are other steps that need to be performed to make the reactions work right. But you seemed to be mostly concerned about the ingredients lists.

Its different for each type, and mode of administration. Meaning, it depends on whether its taken by mouth, topically, like on your skin, or by a shot.
But mostly, theres some fermentation that happens in order to grow the part of the antibiotic that is being administered.

You will also generally find something in it to give it a more stable shelf life, to keep it able to work, between manufacturing and dispensing. Aluminum is one of these preservatives, but dont worry. Your body actually produces aluminum, too, weirdly enough.

Then you also have to have something added to it to ensure that it is absorbed properly, which brings us to the “fillers.” Now, most of the fillers are designed (say in an oral antibiotic) so that the tablet dissolves at a certain time, when taken as directed. Some tablets need to be dissolved in the stomach, some need to be more dissolved in the colon, etc. With lab testing and formulation, the antibiotic medication can dissolve at just the right time, to give you the best results. So lets just call “fillers” the stuff that dissolves and is non toxic, and also dissolves at different rates.

Sometimes a larger pill has more cushioning, or fillers in it, because some of the fillers are made to protect your more vulnerable tissues from harm.. this is one more reason why you shouldnt take a pill in any way other than as directed. Your doctor can prescribe you a crushable medication, if you have trouble swallowing, for instance. You shouldnt make that call yourself, ever, or else you can hurt yourself further.

There is sometimes also a sort of delivery assistant in the chemical composition of an antibiotic, which can assist your body with being able to be helped by it.

Almost everything distrusting people say is “made in a lab” is actually naturally occurring, and mixed (compounded) in a specific way to achieve a high level of good for a person with an infection.

With extensive math skills and a little chemical change, a substance can go from being marginally helpful, to having almost miraclulous magical healing powers. Its not magic though. Its just science.

Scientists who think about chemistry a lot, sometimes have ideas they want to test. This is why so many grants are offered for medical research.. Sometimes, an idea is tested, and the findings are published. The new idea itself can gain momentum, so even if original testing doesnt end up getting good and desirable results, along the way, someone is sure to figure out a solution, bringing us to a cure or at the least, a higher quality of life.

We spend a lot of money on medicine in the USA, as a means of providing an incentive to drug companies and researchers, to keep coming up with ideas and testing them. This helps drug makers to be able to mass produce medicines for people around the world, making them affordable, even in the poorest areas. We take a lot of pride in this.

This is a good LONG article on how antibiotic-making is done, if you have time to read it, its a good and easy read. Good night!! Sleep well.


(I am a preschool/VPK/K, 1st grade teacher, so I am explaining stuff to 5 year olds every day lol)