Selective toxicity is the most important single attribute of an antibiotic, but ideally it should also have as many of the following properties as possible:
• antibiotics, like other chemotherapeutic agents, need to be soluble in body fluids, in order to exert their effect by penetrating the body tissues. The compound must not be metabolised so quickly that it is excreted from the body before having a chance to act.
• if administered orally, it must not be inactivated by the acid environment of the stomach, and must be capable of being absorbed by the small intestine.
• an antibiotic should not have any significant effect on the resident microflora of the host.
• it should not be easy for the target pathogen to establish resistance against an antibiotic.
• side-effects such as allergic reactions should be minimal.
• it should be sufficiently stable to have a good shelf life, without special storage considerations.
Antibiotics should not produce a hypersensitivity (allergic) reaction in the host. This is caused by an extreme response by the host immune system, and is not the same as toxicity.
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