Beta-lactam antibiotics


The largest group of antibiotics are the so-called beta-lactam antibiotics. They include the most well-known antibiotics penicillin as well as the group of cephalosporins (e.g. cefuroxime) and carbapenems (e.g. imipenem).


All beta-lactam antibiotics work germicidal especially fast-growing bacteria. They are mainly given when infested with cocci (Pneumococci in pneumonia, Streptococci in angina and erysipelas as well Gonococci in syphilis and Meningocog in meningitis). One differentiates between penicillin G and penicillin V.

There are penicillins that are not beta-lactamase-proof (penicillin) and some that are beta-lactamase-proof. This includes the staphylococcal penicillin flucloxacillin, which is often given for staphylococcus aureus infections.
The non-beta-lactamase-resistant antibiotics are often administered in combination with beta-lactamase inhibitors in order to achieve an effect despite beta-lactams.

Antibiotics that are not beta-lactamase-resistant are often administered in combination with beta-lactamase inhibitors in order to guarantee an effect.
The Aminopenicillins (Ampicillin, Amoxicillin) are often given for cocci infections of the lungs and the ear, nose and throat tract. A urinary tract infection is a special indication during pregnancy. Furthermore, this group of substances is given prophylactically in patients who are at risk of developing heart inflammation (e.g. during a dental or jaw operation).
In 5-10% of the cases, patients develop skin reactions (exanthema) or as a complication what is known as pseudomembranous colitis during treatment with the preparation. These products should not be given to patients who already have skin reactions for other reasons. Since ampicillin is difficult to absorb in the intestine, the main forms of administration are in liquid intravenous form. The Acylaminopenicillins (Mezlocillin, piperacillin) are given for severe infections.

side effect

As a side effect of beta-lactam antibiotics can:

  • Allergies
  • Damage to the nerves (Neurotoxicity)
  • an increased release of killed bacteria with accompanying chills and fever (Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction

have as a consequence.
If this side effect occurs, you should definitely continue the therapy, but also give antipyretic medication and prescribe bed rest and that drug give slowly.

Please also read our article on this Antibiotic side effects


With Cephalosporins should penicillin cannot be combined, since a so-called cross reaction can occur here.
In places, bacteria are able to produce an enzyme (beta-lactamase) that attacks the beta-lactam structure of the antibiotic and thus makes it ineffective.