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First isolated from the soil fungus Streptomyces erythraeus in 1952 by a team of researchers led by American scientist J. M. McGuire, erythromycin is most successful at fighting gram-positive bacteria, though it also exhibits some action against some types of gram-negative bacteria. The macrolide antibiotic is believed to function within the body by binding to certain ribosomal subunits in susceptible bacteria, the result of which is a suppression of protein synthesis. Through this mode of action, erythromycin can effectively remedy a tremendous number of diseases and conditions, such as pneumonia, syphilis, sinusitis, respiratory infection, and Legionnairesí disease. However, the development of resistant strains of bacteria may necessitate that the drug be utilized in conjunction with other kinds of antibiotics.

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