Active Ingredients

Piperacillin – Effect, Application & Risks


The antibiotic piperacillin belongs to the group of penicillins . It is used to treat bacterial infections .

What is piperacillin?

Piperacillin is an antibiotic that belongs to the penicillin group. More specifically, it is acylaminopenicillin. In addition, piperacillin forms a beta-lactam antibiotic that has a four-membered lactam ring in its structural formula. Of all the penicillins, piperacillin has the best spectrum of activity.

Penicillins such as piperacillin are the oldest antibiotic agents used in medicine. In 1928 the Scottish bacteriologist Alexander Fleming (1881-1955) discovered penicillin by accident. Fleming was working at London’s St. Mary’s Hospital with staph bacteria on a bacterial nutrient plate which he left unattended at times. On his return, the scientist found a mold called Penicillium notatum growing on the agar plate. On the other hand, there was no bacterial growth in the vicinity of the fungus.

The active ingredient had bactericidal properties and was named penicillin by Alexander Fleming. Especially during the Second World War, penicillin unfolded its positive effect, so that a large number of wound infections could be treated successfully.

Nowadays, however, many strains of bacteria are resistant to penicillin. Nevertheless, penicillins such as piperacillin are still used successfully. This is how piperacillin works on all infections caused by sensitive bacteria .

Pharmacological action

Piperacillin is equipped with the typical mode of action of penicillin. In this way, the antibiotic inhibits the build-up of the cell wall of the bacteria, which leads to their death. The effect of piperacillin surpasses the properties of benzylpenicillin . There is a bactericidal (bactericidal) effect against enterobacteria , anaerobes and gram-negative rods. However, the efficacy against gram-positive cocci is worse than that of benzylpenicillin. Nevertheless, the bactericidal effect of piperacillin is sufficient and can be compared with the effect of amoxicillin .

Piperacillin can be destroyed by beta-lactamases, which are special bacterial enzymes . For this reason, medicine usually combines piperacillin with other bactericidal antibiotics that are also able to kill bacteria with enzymes of this type.

Medical Application & Use

The use of piperacillin is suitable for numerous bacterial infections, which can take both an acute and a chronic course. These include diseases caused by gram-negative rods such as cystitis (inflammation of the bladder), urethritis (inflammation of the urethra) or pyelonephritis (inflammation of the kidneys). Piperacillin is also effective in infections of the bile ducts , intra-abdominal abscesses, inflammation of the peritoneum (peritonitis), inflammation of the lungs in patients on mechanical ventilation, gynecological infections such as adnexitis or inflammation of the lining of the uterus ( endometritis ).).

Other areas of application are nosocomial infections caused by the bacterial species Pseudomonas aeruginosa , inflammation of the inner lining of the heart ( endocarditis ), severe sepsis ( blood poisoning ), joint and bone infections such as osteomyelitis (bone marrow inflammation) and infections of the skin and soft tissues after burns , accidents or operations.

Piperacillin is used exclusively by infusions or injections . Oral intake in the form of a tablet is not suitable because the drug does not have acid resistance. Taking tablets would destroy the antibiotic. The half-life of piperacillin is 60 minutes. In principle, piperacillin can be used at any age.

Risks & side effects

Administering piperacillin can cause unwanted side effects in some patients . However, this is not the case for every person, as there are large individual differences. The most common side effects include inflammation of the mucous membrane , allergic reactions , skin rashes , itching , reddening of the skin , headaches and an increase in blood urea concentration.

In the case of high doses, bleeding on the mucous membrane is also conceivable. Sometimes joint pain , drug fever, serum sickness, swelling of the pharynx, kidney inflammation , allergic vascular inflammation , Stevens-Johnson syndrome and a lack of hemoglobin appear .

Especially in the initial phase of piperacillin treatment, severe diarrhea occasionally occurs that lasts longer. This can be the life-threatening intestinal disease pseudomembranous colitis .

An outbreak of hives is considered an indication of a penicillin allergy. In this case, the treatment with the antibiotic must be stopped immediately. If the patient suffers from hypersensitivity to penicillin or cephalosporin , therapy with piperacillin should be avoided. The administration of penicillin is also not recommended during pregnancy and breastfeeding , since there is no precise knowledge of the harmlessness of the drug during this period.

In addition, interactions with other medications should be taken into account. This is especially true for other penicillins or cephalosporins. It delays their degradation when taken at the same time, which leads to a prolonged effect. Piperacillin also increases methotrexate levels in the blood . The piperacillin effect can be increased by administering non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as salicylates, phenylbutazone , sulfinpyrazone or indomethacin . Ditto for the gout remedy probenecid .

Lisa Newlon
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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.