Sulfa Drugs

Sulfa Drugs

Sulfa Drugs are synthetic antimicrobial chemicals that are mainly used to treat diseases that are caused by bacteria. The first Sulfa Drugs was developed by a German bacteriologist, Gerhard Domogk, in 1930. Through many experiments, he showed that a sulfa drug called Prontosil has the potential to kill streptococcus bacteria.

The bacteria are killed by prontosil due to the presence of an active chemical called Sulfanilamide.

Since that time, scientists have conducted many experiments using thousands of similar chemicals, but only about 20 are being selected for medicines.

How do Sulfa Drugs control bacterial diseases?

Sulfa Drugs do not directly kill the bacteria, but they kill by interfering with the bacteria cells’ normal metabolism.

Folic acid is an essential vitamin required by all living cells for their growth and reproduction.

Human beings and most other animals get folic acid from their food. Bacteria, however, have the capability to make their own folic acid. For this, most bacteria need a chemical called para-aminobenzoic acid structure. The only difference between the two is that where Sulfa Drugs have sulfur atoms, PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid)has carbon atoms. Bacteria cannot make out the difference between the two and absorb the Sulfa Drugs. By absorbing the Sulfa Drugs, the production of folic acid gets interrupted, hence prevents the production of folic acid. Without folic acid bacteria losses, its capability to grow and reproduce. Thus, Sulfa Drugs do not actually kill the bacteria. Instead, they keep the bacteria from reproducing and allow the body’s own defence to kill them.

Sulfa drugs side effects

Unfortunately, Sulfa Drugs are not effective for all bacterial diseases but are very effective for the treatment of pneumonia and meningitis. They are also found to be less effective against tuberculosis bacteria.




Sulfa Drugs are toxic and cause many side effects like nausea and skin blisters. Although these medicines are in common use, the antibiotics have been proved more effective.


Sulfa Drugs and antibiotics save thousands of lives every year throughout the world.



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