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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

Aminoglycosides are a class of antibiotics used to treat serious bacterial infections, such as those caused by gram-negative bacteria (especially Pseudomonas aeruginosa).

Aminoglycosides include the following:

  • Amikacin
  • Gentamicin
  • Kanamycin
  • Neomycin
  • Plazomicin
  • Streptomycin
  • Tobramycin

Spectinomycin is chemically related to aminoglycosides and works in a similar way. It is not available in the United States.

Aminoglycosides work by preventing bacteria from producing proteins they need to grow and multiply.



Common Uses

Some Side Effects








Infections caused by gram-negative bacteria, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli, and Klebsiella species

Hearing loss


Kidney damage

These antibiotics are poorly absorbed into the bloodstream when taken by mouth (orally), so they are usually injected into a vein or sometimes a muscle. In the United States, kanamycin and neomycin are available only for topical and oral use (orally they are used to decontaminate the digestive tract because they are not absorbed). These antibiotics are usually used with another antibiotic that is effective against many types of bacteria (called a broad-spectrum antibiotic).

All aminoglycosides can damage the ears and kidneys. So, if possible, doctors often choose a different type of antibiotic.

(See also Overview of Antibiotics.)

Use of Aminoglycosides During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

If aminoglycosides are taken during pregnancy harmful effects on the fetus (such as hearing loss) are possible, but sometimes the benefits of treatment may outweigh the risks. (See also Drug Use During Pregnancy.)

Use of aminoglycosides during breastfeeding is generally considered acceptable. (See also Drug Use During Breastfeeding.)

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

Generic Name Select Brand Names
Streptomycin No US brand name
Tobramycin TOBI, TOBREX
Gentamicin GENOPTIC

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