Antibiotics Revisited (2)

David Carlberg1 should not apologize for "sounding a bit academic" in objecting to my use of the word "antibiotic" in my commentary on the chemotherapy of AIDS.2 It is of vital importance that we avoid confusing our students, our patients, and ourselves by getting our definitions right. If, in Carlberg's words, "an antibiotic is formally defined as a microbial product that kills or inhibits other microbes," then what do we call the new synthetic penicillin derivatives? If we want to call them a

Donald Forsdyke
Apr 2, 2000

David Carlberg1 should not apologize for "sounding a bit academic" in objecting to my use of the word "antibiotic" in my commentary on the chemotherapy of AIDS.2 It is of vital importance that we avoid confusing our students, our patients, and ourselves by getting our definitions right.

If, in Carlberg's words, "an antibiotic is formally defined as a microbial product that kills or inhibits other microbes," then what do we call the new synthetic penicillin derivatives? If we want to call them antibiotics, then either we have to eliminate "microbial product" from the definition, or send our students off on a historical chase to see whether an agent now manufactured by chemical synthesis was originally discovered as a microbial product.

Carlberg considers that agents such as AZT, a synthetic derivative of a biological product (thymidine), "should rightly be referred to as antiviral agents, antiviral drugs or perhaps antimicrobics."...

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