Role of reactive oxygen species in antibiotic action and resistance

Curr Opin Microbiol. 2009 Oct;12(5):482-9. doi: 10.1016/j.mib.2009.06.018. Epub 2009 Jul 31.


The alarming spread of bacterial strains exhibiting resistance to current antibiotic therapies necessitates that we elucidate the specific genetic and biochemical responses underlying drug-mediated cell killing, so as to increase the efficacy of available treatments and develop new antibacterials. Recent research aimed at identifying such cellular contributions has revealed that antibiotics induce changes in metabolism that promote the formation of reactive oxygen species, which play a role in cell death. Here we discuss the relationship between drug-induced oxidative stress, the SOS response and their potential combined contribution to resistance development. Additionally, we describe ways in which these responses are being taken advantage to combat bacterial infections and arrest the rise of resistant strains.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Bacterial Infections / drug therapy*
  • Bacterial Infections / metabolism
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial / physiology*
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Reactive Oxygen Species