Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pit Bull Chemistry

I just can't get any luck. This Sunday I was attacked by a 90-pound pitbull that had broken loose from its leash and decided to bite a chunk out of my shoulder while I was walking home with groceries. Some anxious murmuring about rabies and a doctor's visit later, I'm now in full recovery and feeling worse from the tetanus booster than from the dog bite. One thing I also got was a 10-day course of a broad spectrum antiobiotic, co-amoxiclav, so that I wouldn't end up with some lovely strain of flesh-eating bacteria.

Besides making my urine smell like I've eaten too much asparagus, wiping out any acne I have left, and giving me the runs, taking said antibiotic has given me a random opportunity to learn a little more about biochemistry. Turns out that co-amoxiclav is a cocktail of amoxicillin and clavulanic acid. Amoxicillin is a penicillin-based beta lactam-type antibiotic. The beta lactam ring is the critical nucleophilic component of the antibiotic. In bacteria, it irreversibly binds to the serine residues of cell wall binding proteins, causing them to be unable to synthesize their cell walls properly and, well, die.

Antibiotic resistant bacteria have popped up that can combat this effect by using beta lactamase, a protein that cleaves the beta lactam ring. The antibiotic resistance this confers is overcome by the clavulanic acid, which is a suicide inhibitor that binds to the reactive serine molecule in beta lactamase's active site. That way, amoxicillin and other penicillin-based drugs can go about doing their business. Yee haw.

Considering my luck with shit happening on the weekends these past few weeks (before this weekend, it was a pulled muscle in my neck), I feel like the incoming hurricane will be the cause of this week's misery. At least I'll face it free of necrotic bacteria.

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