Send to

Choose Destination
Sci Prog. 2003;86(Pt 4):283-311.

Bacterial outer membrane and cell wall penetration and cell destruction by polluting chemical agents and physical conditions.

Author information

Welsh School of Pharmacy, Cardiff University, Cardiff CF10 3XF, UK.


In the environment, bacteria and other microorganisms are subjected to a variety of constantly changing chemical and physical agencies. Chemical ones include antimicrobial compounds (both biocides and antibiotics), pollutants, drugs, cosmetic and pharmaceutical ingredients and pesticides. The physical agents include desiccation and drying, osmotic pressure, hydrostatic pressure, temperature and pH changes and radiations (ultraviolet, sunlight, ionizing). Bacteria must thus adapt to survive these inimicable conditions. Organisms such as bacterial spores usually survive, whereas other types of microorganisms may be much more susceptible. Depending on the type of organism, the bacterial cell wall, outer membrane or the spore outer layers may act as permeability barriers to the intracellular uptake of antibiotics and biocides. Some antibacterial agents interact with, and damage or modify, the outer components. Physical agencies are known to damage the cytoplasmic membrane or to produce alterations in DNA or proteins or enzymes. Nevertheless, significant damage to the cell wall or outer membrane may also occur. Four types of organisms are considered: cocci, mycobactria, Gram-negative bacteria and bacterial spores. The nature of the damage inflicted on, or in some cases prevented by, their outer cell layers is discussed for each type of organism.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Loading ...
Support Center