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- Synthetic antibiotics, usually chemically related to natural antibiotics
- Have since been produced that accomplish comparable tasks
- Sulfa drugs are used to treat bacterial infections, although they have largely been replaced for this purpose by antibiotics
- Are also used in the treatment of diabetes
- Because sulfa drugs were first used to elucidate ways in which substances can interfere with the metabolism of invading microorganisms, they are of historical interest.
- In 1932 the German chemist Gerhard Domagk discovered that the dye Prontosil had antagonistic properties against a wide range of bacteria, and in 1935 it was found that the sulfanilamide portion of the Prontosil molecule was responsible for its antibacterial effect.
- In 1940 it was shown that sulfanilamide inhibited the action of the physiological substance para-aminobenzoic acid, which bacteria need to synthesize folic acid.
- The idea that the two substances were antagonists led to a theory of the mechanism of action of drugs:
- Many chemotherapeutic substances compete with structurally similar substances that are necessary to the metabolism of invading microorganisms.