Active Ingredients

Erythromycin – Effect, Application & Risks


Erythromycin is an antibiotic and is used to prevent or treat bacterial infections . It can be used on the skin , i.e. externally, or orally, i.e. internally. Erythromycin is subject to a medical prescription in Germany, so it is not available over the counter in pharmacies.

What is erythromycin?

Erythromycin is a so-called macrolide antibiotic. It thus belongs to a specific group of active ingredients within antibiotics. Other well-known representatives from this group of antibiotics are, for example, clarithromycin or azithromycin .

Typical areas of application for macrolides are inflammation of the paranasal sinuses , acute bronchitis or syphilis . Some types of bacteria have the property of hiding in the body’s cells, so these are usually difficult for antibiotics to reach. However, erythromycin has the property of penetrating the cell membrane and therefore also acting intracellularly, i.e. within the cell , against bacteria.

Erythromycin does not kill the pathogens directly, but effectively inhibits their growth and reproduction. Drugs with the antibiotic active substance erythromycin are frequently used both on an outpatient and inpatient basis in clinics. The doctor decides on the duration of treatment, which depends on the type and severity of the infection.

Pharmacological action

It has been proven that erythromycin prevents bacteria from producing new protein molecules, which are essential for the growth of these pathogens. After treatment with erythromycin, the bacteria whose growth and reproduction are inhibited can be better recognized and eliminated by the immune system . So erythromycin is so effective because it directly attacks the protein synthesis of the bacteria.

Macrolide antibiotics are often only the second choice of medication, namely when penicillin cannot be administered to treat certain bacterial infections.

It could be proven that the erythromycin molecule attaches itself directly to the ribosomes and thus blocks protein synthesis. Erythromycin has two key advantages over other antibiotics. On the one hand, it can diffuse into body cells and, on the other hand, degradation in the body is very delayed. This leads to a relatively long duration of action. In comparison to other antibiotics, it does not have to be taken as frequently or only for a short time. In order to fight an infection effectively, a three-day dose in high doses is often sufficient in many cases.

Depending on the severity of an infection, erythromycin can also be combined with other groups of antibiotics.

Medical Application & Use

Erythromycin is used internally and externally in various dosage forms. Erythromycin is often the drug of choice for bacterial skin infections. For example, skin injuries, surgical wounds or burns are treated externally with erythromycin. The antibiotic penetrates deep into the skin layers. A superficial treatment is therefore also suitable for acne . Under treatment with erythromycin, the skin inflammation subsides within a few days.

For internal treatment, erythromycin is used against a variety of bacterial infections, but also to prevent reinfection. Typical internal application areas of erythromycin are, for example, tonsillitis , otitis media or pneumonia .

Urinary tract infections , conjunctivitis in the eyes as well as chronic bronchitis and bacterial colds are also treated with erythromycin . Sufficiently high drug concentrations can be detected in the infected tissues after a short period of therapy.

Streptococci, a specific type of bacteria, rapidly develop resistance to erythromycin. However, the development of resistance in bacterial strains is not only an increasing problem in the context of therapy with macrolide antibiotics.

Risks & side effects

The greatest risk in treatment with erythromycin is the risk of the pathogen developing resistance. In addition, treatment with erythromycin involves other dangers, risks and side effects . If the active substance is administered together with other antibiotics, so-called cross-resistance can easily develop after a certain period of treatment.

Despite its good effectiveness, erythromycin is unfortunately also characterized by an extremely high rate of interactions with other drugs. For example, the effect of theophylline , certain anticoagulants and painkillers is enhanced. Cardiac arrhythmias can occur with the simultaneous administration of antihistamines for allergies or sleeping pills .

If erythromycin is taken together with ergotamine , it can lead to sudden, spastic vasoconstriction, which requires admission to a hospital. In addition, overdoses of the drug should be avoided in any case due to liver toxicity.

Lisa Newlon
 | Website

Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.