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Tetracyclines are called broad-spectrum antibiotics because they can be used to treat a wide variety of infections. Physicians may prescribe these drugs to treat eye infections, pneumonia, gonorrhea, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, urinary tract infections, certain bacteria that could be used in biological weapons, and other infections caused by bacteria. The medicine is also used to treat acne. The tetracyclines will not work for colds, flu, and other infections caused by viruses. Tetracyclines are generally a low-cost alternative among antibiotics.
There are five drugs in the tetracycline class:
All tetracyclines are used for treatment of infections in patients over the age of eight years. They may be used in several forms, including capsules, injections, ointments, eye and ear drops.
Tetracyclines are bacteriostatic. They do not kill bacteria; they prevent bacteria from growing, so that the body's natural defenses are better able to deal with an infection. For this reason, tetracyclines are not used in patients with impaired immune systems.
Although all tetracyclines are similar, and can do most of the same work, there are some differences. Doxycycline requires only one dose a day and can be used even when the patient has kidney problems. Demeclocycline and minocycline penetrate the skin better than other tetracyclines and may be preferred for treatment of acne. Demeclocycline is effective for the syndrome of inappropriate anti-diuretic hormone (SIDAH), although it is not officially approved for this purpose.
In addition to their role in treating infections, tetracyclines have a wide range of other uses. These include protection against some types of malaria and treatment of some of the infections that might be used in bioterrorism. Some tetracycline derivatives have been useful in cancer therapy. Tetracyclines have been useful in prevention of gum diseases of the mouth.
Tetracyclines should normally not be used in children under the age of eight because some tetracyclines can be absorbed into the bones and teeth and give the teeth a mottled appearance. Some experts believe that tetracyclines should be avoided in children younger than ten.
Author Info: Samuel Uretsky PharmD, Thomson Gale, Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Children's Health, 2006This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your healthcare provider. Please consult a healthcare professional with any health concerns you may have.
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