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I can't get my head around pharmacology

Written by Miss Malaika Allsopp · Monday 30th December 2013

Maybe it’s just me, but I cannot get my head around pharmacology and antibiotics are certainly doing their best to finish me off! My group at uni decided that this was one area that we needed to revise, and the task fell on my hands to provide the material for a revision session. So, the night before the session I began to panic about how to come up with any useful tips for my group, or indeed anyone at all, to try to remember anything useful about antibiotics at all. If only Paracetamoxyfrusebendroneomycin was a real drug, it would make our lives so much easier. Come on Adam Kay and Suman Biswas, get the trials started and create your wonderful super drug. For the mean time I guess I will just have to keep blissfully singing along to your song. However, that is not going to help me with my task in hand.

After a lot of research that even took me beyond the realms of Wikipedia (something I do not often like to do), I found various sources suggesting remembering these Top 10 Rules (and their exceptions)

  1. All cell wall inhibitors are ?-lactams (except vancomycin)
  2. All penicillins are water soluble (nafcillin)
  3. All protein synthesis inhibitors are bacteriostatic (aminoglycosides)
  4. All cocci are Gram positive (Neisseria spp.)
  5. All bacilli are Gram negative (anthrax, tetanus, botulism, diptheria)
  6. All spirochetes are Gram negative
  7. Tetracyclines and macrolides are used for intracellular bacteria
  8. Pregnant women should not take tetracyclines, aminoglycosides, fluroquinolones, or sulfonamides
  9. Antibiotics beginning with a ‘C’ are particularly associated with pseudomembranous colitis
  10. While the penicillins are the most famous for causing allergies, people may also react to cephalosporins

If those work for you, then I guess you can stop reading now… If they don’t, I can’t promise that I have anything better, but give these other tips that I found a whirl… Alternatively, I have created a Page on my own blog called Rang and Dale’s answer to Antibiotics, which summarises their information, so please take a look at that.

Most people will suggest that you can categorise antibiotics in three ways, and it’s best to pick one and learn examples of them.

Mode of action:

  • bactericidal (kill)
  • bacteriostatic (stop multiplying)

2 mnemonics to potentially help you remember examples:

  1. We’re ECSTaTiC about bacteriostatics? Erythromycin Clindamycin Sulphonamides Tetracyclines Trimethoprim Chloramphenicol
  2. Very Finely Proficient At Cell Murder (bactericidal) - Vancomycin Fluroquinolones Penicillins Aminoglycosides Cephalosporins Metranidazole

Spectrum of activity:

  • broad-spectrum (gram positive AND negative)
  • narrow (gram positive OR negative)

Mechanism of action

  • Inhibit cell wall synthesis
  • Inhibit nucleic acid synthesis
  • Inhibit protein synthesis
  • Inhibit cell membrane synthesis

If you have any more weird and wonderful ways to remember antibiotics, let me
know and I will add them! As always, thank you for reading.