Merck Manual

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Brian J. Werth

, PharmD, University of Washington School of Pharmacy

Last full review/revision Jul 2020| Content last modified Jul 2020
Click here for the Professional Version

The antibiotic chloramphenicol is used mainly to treat serious infections due to the few bacteria that are resistant to other antibiotics but are still susceptible to chloramphenicol. Its use is limited because it interferes with the production of blood cells in bone marrow, greatly reducing the number of blood cells (blood cell counts), which, in some people, can be irreversible and fatal, and so this drug is used only if no safer drugs are available.

Chloramphenicol works by interfering with the bacteria's production of the proteins needed to grow and multiply.

Chloramphenicol is commonly used to treat typhoid and other salmonella infections, rickettsial infections, and meningitis.

Use of Chloramphenicol During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Chloramphenicol should be used during pregnancy only when the benefits of treatment outweigh the risks. Chloramphenicol may cause gray baby syndrome, a serious and often fatal reaction to the drug. (See also Drug Use During Pregnancy.)

Use of chloramphenicol during breastfeeding is not recommended. (See also Drug Use During Breastfeeding.)

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

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No US brand name
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