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Focusing on Antivitamins - possible substitutes for antibiotics




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Developing antibiotics is among the most important achievements of modern medicine and have saved millions of lives since the discovery of penicillin almost 100 years ago. Many diseases caused by bacterial infections - such as pneumonia (infection of the lungs), meningitis (inflammation of the brain shell of the brain and spinal cord) or septicaemia (a serious blood infection caused by a bacterial infection in another part of the body), can be successfully treated with antibiotics. But these medications also have their drawbacks, as some bacteria can develop resistance to them and continue to threaten us. And probably make the treatment of a disease ineffective. What is the role of antivitamins in this situation we will explore in the following lines.

What are antivitamins

Antivitamins are substances that inhibit the biological function of the real vitamin [ [ref. 1] ]. Some antivitamins have a similar chemical structure to those of the actual vitamin, the action of which blocks or restricts and can become their substitutes. And not only that - antivitamins turn into "false" vitamins and become toxic to bacteria, which is catastrophic for them. It turns out that antivitamins are not a whole new concept in the world of biophysical chemistry. A slightly more in-depth study takes us to the Antivitamins and Other Factors Influenced Vitamin Activity report, compiled in 1948  at a conference examining the effects of certain antivitamins. 

[ref. 3] ].

Contrary to expectations, medications are a common group of vitamin inhibitors, as well as stress on the human body in everyday life. Different substances and stress reduce the action of specific vitamins, causing problems in the human body and an imbalance of processes in it. 

Antivitamins do exactly what their name suggests: they stop the functioning of vitamins. As we approach the end of the antibiotic era due to the rapid pace at which bacteria develop resistance to miracle drugs, researchers are increasingly looking at antivitamins as the basis for a new class of drugs that could potentially replace antibiotics to treat bacterial infections

The discovery of a team of German researchers

Scientific data unequivocally shows that the resistance of pathogens is growing, and therefore it is extremely important that scientists identify a class of drugs that could replace antibiotics [ [ref. 4] ]. One of them could potentially be the so-called "antivitamins."

The first and very important step is to understand how antivitamins work so that we can use them. For example, the antivitamin, which "cancels" vitamin B1, differs from the vitamin with only a single atom, and it is seemingly insignificant. At first glance, that shouldn't be enough, but it is. And researchers from the University of Göttingen noted the same conclusion in their study documenting their discovery.

The antivitamin B1 occurs naturally and is produced by bacteria as a means of destroying competing bacteria. Its critical atom appears in an apparently insignificant place, deepening the mystery.

To see how this single atom does such an effective job, the researchers used high-resolution protein crystallography. This allows them to observe the interaction between antivitamin B1 and B1 at the atomic level.

What they notice is that the antivitamin completely interrupts the "dance of protons", which is observed in functioning proteins. Lead scientist in the research team Dr Kai Titman says that "only one additional atom in the antivitamin acts as a grain in a complex system of speeds, blocking its finely tuned mechanics." 

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

The extremely interesting discovery in this study is that although the inhibitory effect of antivitamin B1 on the functioning of B1 in bacteria, it does not interfere with the vitamin in humans. This information gives us hope that antivitamins can be developed to work to neutralize pathogens without harming our health.
  1. What are antivitamins
  2. The discovery of a team of German researchers


Antivitamins are substances that inactivate or destroy vitamins or inhibit the activity of vitamin in metabolic reaction. The possibility that antivitamins at some point are ready to replace antibiotics is on our horizon, and the most important thing is to fully reveal their mechanisms of action. Antivitamins have actually been used in the development of antibiotic and antiproliferative drugs, such as prontozil and aminopterin. And already there are some antivitamin drugs that are used, in particular antagonists of vitamins B12, B9 and K. It is only a matter of time before we understand what the development of medicine will be in this direction - and hope it is sooner to face antibiotic resistance.


  1. Focus: Drug Development: Penicillin’s Discovery and Antibiotic Resistance: Lessons for the Future?
  2. Antivitamins and Other Factors Influencing Vitamin Activity | British Journal of Nutrition | Cambridge Core
  3. Access denied - NCBI Bookshelf

The author

Bettina Tsvetkova is a Bachelor of Marketing and Master of Entrepreneurship, a fan of healthy eating, power sports and cycling. Author of over 1500 scientifically based articles, product texts and promotional materials on a healthy topic for Bulgarian and foreign websites. 


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