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Sulfa drug, in full SULFONAMIDE DRUG, sulfa also spelled SULPHA, any
member of a group of synthetic antibacterial drugs containing the
sulfanilamide molecular structure, and including sulfanilamide, sulfadiazine,
sulfapyridine, sulfathiazole, and other substances.
The antibacterial effects of sulfonamides were first observed in 1932, when
Gerhard Domagk a German bacteriologist and pathologist, noted the effects
of Prontosil (a red dye) on streptococcal infections in mice. French
investigators were first to prove that sulfonamide was the active principle in
the dye. American researchers later helped create a rational basis for
sulfonamide chemotherapy. Sulfonamides were the first chemical substances
that were systematically used to cure and prevent bacterial infections in
humans.
They are bacteriostatic drugs; i.e., they inhibit the growth and multiplication
of bacteria but do not kill them. They act by interfering with enzyme systems
essential to normal metabolic and growth patterns of bacteria. Although more
than 5,000 sulfa drugs have been prepared and tested, fewer than 20
continue to have therapeutic value because resistant strains of bacteria have
developed.
Sulfa drugs are assigned to four groups based on the rapidity with which they
are absorbed and excreted. The most common side effects of sulfa drugs
include nausea, vomiting, and mental confusion. Other side effects include
fever, skin eruptions, anemia, leukopenia, and irritation of the liver or
kidneys. More potent antibacterial drugs have largely replaced the sulfa
drugs. They are still used, however, in the treatment of urinary tract
infection.
2 reference
Any of a class of synthetic chemical substances derived from sulfanilamide,
or para-amino-benzene-sulfonamide. Sulfa drugs are used to treat bacterial
infections, although they have largely been replaced for this purpose by
antibiotics some 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. The parent compound, para-aminobenzenesulfonamide, was
synthesized in 1908 by Paul Gelmo, an Austrian industrial chemist. 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-amino-benzoic 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. Since
sulfanilamide first came into use, more than 150 different derivatives have
appeared on the market, chemically modified to achieve more effective
antibacterial activity, wider spectrum of microorganisms affected, or more
prolonged action. Because of their low cost they are still used in many parts
of the world. However, resistance to sulfa drugs has emerged among many
microorganisms, especially streptococci, meningococci, and shigella, making

The substances are still used to treat some urinary tract infections. fungal diseases such as toxoplasmosis. leprosy. .them less effective than formerly . and in combination with other drugs.