Contempo Updates
January 24/31, 2001

β-Lactam Antibiotic and β-Lactamase Inhibitor Combinations

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Departments of Medicine (Drs Lee and Kumana) and Microbiology (Dr Yuen), The University of Hong Kong, Queen Mary Hospital, Hong Kong.


Contempo Updates Section Editor: Stephen J. Lurie, MD, PhD, Senior Editor.

JAMA. 2001;285(4):386-388. doi:10.1001/jama.285.4.386

β-Lactam antibiotics act by binding to penicillin-binding proteins (PBPs), thus inhibiting bacterial cell wall synthesis. Increasingly, however, these antibiotics are rendered ineffective because of degradation by β-lactamases. This family of enzymes, which are produced by gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria (including anaerobes) and mycobacteria,1,2 hydrolyze the β-lactam ring, thereby inactivating the antibiotic molecule prior to binding with PBPs. In response, β-lactamase inhibitors have been developed to conserve the activity and extend the spectrum of any accompanying β-lactam drug against β-lactamase–producing microorganisms.

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