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Brian J. Werth

, PharmD, University of Washington School of Pharmacy

Last full review/revision November 2018 by Brian J. Werth, PharmD

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 when taken by mouth, so they are usually given intravenously. 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. Thus if possible, doctors often choose a different type of antibiotic. In the United States, kanamycin and neomycin are available only for topical and oral use.

(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
Gentamicin GENOPTIC
Tobramycin TOBI, TOBREX

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