Table 1. Overview of important antibiotics
Year discovered Antibiotic* Class Comments
1929 Penicillin ß-Lactam Identification of activity_not isolated
1932 Sulfapyridine* Sulfonamide Many derivatives have been developed and remain useful drugs
1939 Polymixin Peptide Employed for topical application (`triple antibiotic cream')
1940 Penicillin G ß-Lactam (penicillin) The forerunner of a large class of antibiotics
1944 Streptomycin Aminoglycoside(streptamine) Important drug for TB treatment
1945 Cephalosporin C ß-Lactam (cephalosporin) First of its class.
1947 Chloramphenicol Phenylpropanoid In spite of toxicity (bone marrow suppression), widely used for typhoid, diarrheas
1948 Chlortetracycline Tetracycline(type II polyketide) Broad spectrum, extensively used in humans, but also for animal growth promotion
1950 Erythromycin Macrolide(type I polyketide) Modern derivatives (clarithromycin,azithromycin) used widely for gram-positive infections
1955 Vancomycin Glycopeptide Little used until the 1980s when it was introduced to treat multiply-resistant gram-positive bacterial pathogens;the `V' in VRE
1955 Amphotericin B Polyene First generally effective antifungal agent
1955 Virginiamycin Streptogramins(two-component agent: macrocyclic peptolide and depsipeptide Introduced for animal use, closely related to Synercid now used in humans
1955 Lincomycin Lincosamide Long-time standby for certain gram-positive infections
1959 Rifamycin Ansamycin Front-line drug for TB treatment
1960 Methicillin ß-Lactam (penicillin) The `M' in MRSA
1962 Cephalothin ß-Lactam (cephalosporin)  
1962 Nalidixic acid* Quinolones The forerunner of the potent 4-fluoroquinolones (e.g. ciprofloxacin* 1983)
1962 Trimethoprim* Substituted pyridinediamine Often used in combination with sulfa drug.
1963 Gentamicin Aminoglycoside(2-deoxystreptamine) First broad-spectrum aminogycloside widely used for nosocomial infections
1969 Fosfomycin Phosphonate Recently introduced in North America
1973 Cefoxitin Cephamycin  
1973 Aztreonam Monobactam  
1976 Thienamycin Carbapenem All ß-lactam antibiotics, the `modern'replacements for penicillin
1980 Daptomycin Lipopeptide Presently in advanced trials for VRE, MRSA treatment