Sulfonamide (medicine)

From WikiMD's Health & Wellness Encyclopedia


Sulfonamides, commonly known as sulfa drugs or sulpha drugs, are a group of synthetic drugs characterized by the presence of a sulfonamide functional group. They hold significant importance in the field of pharmacology due to their versatile applications, including antibacterial and non-antibacterial properties.

Chemical Structure

The defining feature of sulfonamides is the sulfonamide functional group, denoted as -SO2NH2 in chemical notation. This group is a crucial part of the molecule and is responsible for its various therapeutic effects.

Antibacterial Sulfonamides

The original sulfonamides introduced in medicine were primarily antibacterial agents. They are considered nonantibiotic antimicrobials, which inhibit bacterial growth and replication through interference with the bacterial synthesis of folic acid, a necessary component for bacterial DNA replication.

Non-Antibacterial Sulfonamides

In addition to their antibacterial uses, certain sulfonamides do not possess antibacterial properties yet have important medical applications. For instance, the anticonvulsant drug sultiame is a non-antibacterial sulfonamide used to manage seizures.

Modern Drug Groups

Following the discovery and usage of the original antibacterial sulfonamides, further development has led to the creation of new drug groups. This includes sulfonylureas, which are used in the management of diabetes mellitus type 2, and thiazide diuretics, commonly used in treating hypertension.

Use and Side Effects

Sulfonamides are used to treat a broad range of bacterial infections, including respiratory tract infections, urinary tract infections, and skin infections. However, they can cause potential side effects such as skin rashes, hypersensitivity reactions, and in rare cases, severe reactions like Stevens-Johnson syndrome.

Despite the advent of newer, more selective antibiotics, sulfonamides retain their relevance due to their broad-spectrum activity and affordability.

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