Course Identification

The chemistry and biology of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance

Lecturers and Teaching Assistants

Dr. Ilya Osterman

Course Schedule and Location

Second Semester
Sunday, 11:15 - 13:00, FGS, Rm B

Field of Study, Course Type and Credit Points

Life Sciences: Lecture; 2.00 points
Life Sciences (ExCLS Track): Elective; 2.00 points




A basic course in molecular biology  (undergraduate or similar)

A basic course in biochemistry (undergraduate or similar)



Language of Instruction


Attendance and participation

Expected and Recommended

Grade Type

Pass / Fail

Grade Breakdown (in %)


Evaluation Type


Scheduled date 1


Estimated Weekly Independent Workload (in hours)



The discovery of antibiotics revolutionized the treatment of pathogenic infections. It revealed that organisms living right under our feet, in the soil, have the ability to produce molecules that combat bacterial infections. Through thousands of years of evolution, these small molecules have become highly active and specific, reducing the threat posed by deadly bacteria such as Yersinia pestis (plague) and Vibrio cholerae (cholera). However, alongside the development of antibiotics, bacteria have also evolved mechanisms to resist their effects. The widespread use of these molecules in medical treatment and agriculture has accelerated this process. Even after a century since the discovery of antibiotics, bacterial infections continue to pose significant threats to human health.

In this course, we will delve into the biology and chemistry of antibiotics, learn how bacteria can resist these molecules. Starting from the discovery of the first antibiotics, we will explore various classes of antibiotics and their cellular targets. We will discuss the factors contributing to the spread of antibiotic resistance and strategies to overcome this challenge. Detailed presentations on the chemical properties and molecular interactions between antibiotics and their targets will provide insights into the mechanisms of antibiotic resistance and the rationale behind the development of new generations of antibiotics. Furthermore, we will explore the pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic parameters of antibiotic treatments and the factors influencing the selection of specific drugs against pathogenic bacteria.


  1. Introduction: Classification and nomenclature of antibiotics. "Ancient antibiotics": Salvarsan, the first antibacterial compound. Penicillin and streptomycin: The "Golden era" of antibiotics.
  2. Antibiotics targeting cell walls and membranes.
  3. Antibiotics targeting ribosomes and the protein synthesis apparatus.
  4. Antibiotics inhibiting nucleic acid biosynthesis and replication.
  5. Antibiotics targeting metabolic enzymes and specific metabolic pathways.
  6. Antibiotic resistance in antibiotic-producing organisms.
  7. The spread of antibiotic resistance among human pathogens.
  8. Pharmacodynamic parameters of antibiotic treatment.
  9. Pharmacokinetics of antibiotics.
  10. From active molecules to effective medicine: The journey of antibiotics.
  11. Approaches to discovering new antibacterial compounds.
  12. Beyond antibiotics: Exploring alternative antibacterial therapies.
  13. Seminar with 5-10min presentations
  14. Seminar with 5-10min presentations

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will:

  1. Understand the classification, history, and development of antibiotics.
  2. Identify major antibiotic classes and their targets.
  3. Explain how antibiotics inhibit cell structures, protein synthesis, and metabolic processes.
  4. Grasp the concept of antibiotic resistance and its spread among bacteria.
  5. Analyze the pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics of antibiotics.
  6. Evaluate factors influencing antibiotic selection for specific infections.
  7. Explore molecular interactions and mechanisms of antibiotic resistance.
  8. Comprehend the journey from active molecules to effective medicines.
  9. Investigate alternative antibacterial therapies.
  10. Engage in seminar discussions and deliver concise presentations.

Reading List