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Trimethoprim and Sulfamethoxazole

By

Brian J. Werth

, PharmD, University of Washington School of Pharmacy

Last full review/revision Jul 2020| Content last modified Jul 2020
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NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
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Topic Resources

Trimethoprim is an antibiotic and is available as a single drug or in combination with sulfamethoxazole (a sulfonamide antibiotic).

Trimethoprim and the combination of trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole (TMP/SMX) are effective against many gram-positive bacteria and gram-negative bacteria, including susceptible bacteria that are resistant to other antibiotics, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and some protozoa (Cyclospora and Cystoisospora) and fungi (Pneumocystis). Using trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole together enhances the effectiveness of both antibiotics.

These drugs work by preventing the bacteria from producing the type of folic acid they need to function.

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Trimethoprim and Sulfamethoxazole

Drug

Common Uses

Some Side Effects

Trimethoprim*

Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (TMP/SMX)

Infections caused by susceptible bacteria that are resistant to other antibiotics, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)

Chronic infection of the prostate (prostatitis)

Bladder infections in women

Prevention of recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs) in women and children

Intestinal infections due to various bacteria, such as Escherichia coli (E. coli)

Treatment and prevention of pneumonia due to Pneumocystis jirovecii (a fungus)

Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea

Allergy (including rashes)

Crystals in urine (rare)

A decrease in white blood cell and platelet counts

Sensitivity to sunlight

Possibly increased tendency to bleed if used with warfarin

Kidney failure in people who have kidneys that are not functioning well

* Trimethoprim has side effects similar to those of sulfamethoxazole, but they are less common.

Use During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Trimethoprim and trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole should be used during pregnancy only when the benefits of treatment outweigh the risks. With trimethoprim, defects of the brain and spinal cord (neural tube defects), such as spina bifida, are a risk. Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole should not be used when the due date is near because, taken at that time, this drug combination may cause jaundice and increases the risk of brain damage (kernicterus) in the newborn. (See also Drug Use During Pregnancy.)

Use of trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole during breastfeeding is usually discouraged because sulfamethoxazole passes into breast milk. Use of trimethoprim during breastfeeding is generally considered acceptable. (See also Drug Use During Breastfeeding.)

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version
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