Development of the semi-synthetic penicillins and cephalosporins

Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2008 Mar;31(3):189-92. doi: 10.1016/j.ijantimicag.2007.11.010. Epub 2008 Jan 8.


Semi-synthetic penicillins and cephalosporins both derive from their respective chemical nuclei, 6-aminopenicillanic acid (6-APA) and 7-aminocephalosporanic acid (7-ACA). Work leading to their isolation was being carried out in parallel, but following very different pathways, during the last half of the 1950s. The development of 6-APA was reviewed recently in this journal, and in the present article I take a closer look at early work on 'penicillin amidase' and revisit the steps that led to 7-ACA.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / chemical synthesis*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / history*
  • Cephalosporins / chemical synthesis*
  • Cephalosporins / history*
  • History, 19th Century
  • Penicillins / chemical synthesis*
  • Penicillins / history*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Cephalosporins
  • Penicillins