Pharmacology of Aminoglycosides antibiotics

Aminoglycosides are a class of potent antibiotics used to treat serious infections caused by Gram-negative bacteria as well as some Gram-positive bacteria. They are particularly effective against aerobic, facultative anaerobic, and obligate anaerobic bacteria.

History and Development

The era of aminoglycosides began with the discovery of streptomycin in 1943, which was the first antibiotic effective against tuberculosis. This discovery was followed by the development of other aminoglycosides, such as neomycin, kanamycin, amikacin, tobramycin, and gentamicin.

Below is a comprehensive overview of the pharmacology of aminoglycosides:


Aminoglycosides can be classified based on their chemical structure and spectrum of activity. Some of the commonly used aminoglycosides include:

  • Gentamicin
  • Amikacin
  • Tobramycin
  • Streptomycin
  • Neomycin

Mechanism of Action

Aminoglycosides work by binding to the 30S ribosomal subunit of bacteria, causing misreading of the mRNA and inhibiting protein synthesis. This leads to the production of abnormal proteins and ultimately results in bacterial cell death.

aminoglycosides: Protien synthesis inhibitors


  • Absorption: Aminoglycosides are poorly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and are usually administered intravenously or intramuscularly for systemic infections. Some forms can be used topically for skin and eye infections.
  • Distribution: They are distributed throughout the body, but concentrations are highest in the kidneys and inner ear.
  • Metabolism: Aminoglycosides undergo minimal metabolism.
  • Excretion: They are primarily excreted unchanged in the urine.

Adverse Effects

  • Nephrotoxicity: Kidney damage, which can be reversible if detected early.
  • Ototoxicity: Damage to the inner ear, leading to hearing loss and balance problems. This can be irreversible.
  • Neuromuscular Blockade: In rare cases, aminoglycosides can cause muscle weakness and respiratory depression.
  • Allergic Reactions: Skin rashes and, in rare cases, anaphylaxis.

Clinical Uses

  • Serious Gram-Negative Infections: Such as sepsis, pneumonia, and urinary tract infections.
  • Tuberculosis: Streptomycin is used in combination with other drugs for the treatment of tuberculosis.
  • Topical Use: For skin, eye, and ear infections.


Bacterial resistance to aminoglycosides can occur due to enzymatic modification of the drug, changes in the ribosomal binding site, or decreased uptake of the drug into the bacterial cell.

Drug Interactions

  • Other Nephrotoxic or Ototoxic Drugs: Such as vancomycin, loop diuretics, and cisplatin can increase the risk of kidney damage and hearing loss.
  • Neuromuscular Blocking Agents: Aminoglycosides can enhance the effects of these drugs, leading to prolonged muscle relaxation.


Due to the risk of nephrotoxicity and ototoxicity, it is crucial to monitor kidney function and drug levels in the blood, especially during prolonged therapy or in patients with pre-existing kidney disease.


  • Allergy to Aminoglycosides: Patients with a history of allergy to any aminoglycoside should not receive these antibiotics.
  • Pregnancy: Aminoglycosides can cause harm to the fetus, particularly to the developing ear, leading to hearing loss.
  • Pre-existing Kidney or Hearing Problems: Use with caution and close monitoring.


Aminoglycosides are powerful antibiotics used to treat serious bacterial infections. However, their use is associated with significant risks, including kidney damage and hearing loss. Appropriate dosing, careful monitoring, and awareness of potential drug interactions are essential to minimize these risks and ensure safe and effective use. They are often used in combination with other antibiotics to enhance their efficacy and reduce the risk of resistance development.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Always seek the advice of a healthcare provider with any questions regarding a medical condition.

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