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Chloramphenicol is a broad spectrum antibiotic that is active against both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria.
However, due to its severe toxicity, chloramphenicol is no longer used as the first medication of choice in most countries with access to safer antibiotics; instead, this medication is typically used when other antibiotics are ineffective or contraindicated.
Nowadays, chloramphenicol is most often used intravenously, and since it readily crosses the blood-brain barrier, it may be used to treat bacterial meningitis in clients who have major hypersensitivity reactions to penicillin.
Additionally, it can be considered for the treatment of serious rickettsial infections, such as typhus and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Once administered, chloramphenicol has a bacteriostatic effect by reversibly binding to the 50S subunit of the bacterial ribosome, thereby inhibiting bacterial protein synthesis, and ultimately stopping bacterial growth.
Now, chloramphenicol may cause side effects like gastrointestinal disturbances, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Additionally, it has a boxed warning for blood dyscrasia, including fatal aplastic anemia, hypoplastic anemia, and bone marrow suppression, and it can increase the risk of developing superinfections.
Other side effects of chloramphenicol include severe metabolic acidosis; as well as neurotoxicity, which can manifest as optic neuritis or peripheral neuropathy.
Finally, infants lack a hepatic enzyme involved in the metabolism of chloramphenicol, so the medication may accumulate in their body until it reaches toxic levels.
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