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Macrolides, also known as macrolactones, are organic, ring-shaped molecules which are structurally characterized by a 12- to 16-membered macrocyclic lactone ring (see structural formula) with a glycosidically bound amino sugar.
Well over 2000 naturally occurring, structurally heterogeneous and complex macrolides are known. Macrolides are mainly found as metabolic products in bacteria and fungi.
Among the 14-membered compounds are the lead substance of the group, erythromycin, and also the semi-synthetically produced macrolides clarithromycin and roxithromycin. Azithromycin, has a 15-membered skeleton.