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Am J Clin Dermatol. 2003;4(6):389-97.

A guide to selection and appropriate use of macrolides in skin infections.

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Department of Dermatology, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India.


Dermatologists must be aware of the adverse effects of antimicrobial agents as well as various drug interactions that may influence the choice of drug as well as specific drug schedules. The development of modern antibacterials has improved the treatment of cutaneous bacterial infections. Macrolide antibacterials continue to be an important therapeutic class of drugs with established efficacy in a variety of skin infections. All macrolides inhibit protein synthesis by reversibly binding to the 23S ribosomal RNA in the 50S-subunit. Erythromycin, the prototype of macrolide antibacterials, was isolated from the metabolic products of a strain of Streptomyces erytherus in 1952. Originally, erythromycin was introduced as an alternative to penicillin because of its activity against the Gram-positive organisms. Numerous studies have demonstrated the efficacy and safety of erythromycin for various infectious diseases. Unfortunately, erythromycin is associated with a number of drawbacks including a narrow spectrum of activity, unfavorable pharmacokinetic properties, poor gastrointestinal tolerability, and a significant number of drug-drug interactions. Newer macrolides have been developed to address these limitations. The pharmacokinetics of azithromycin and clarithromycin allow for shorter dosing schedules because of prolonged tissue levels. The efficacy of azithromycin for the treatment of skin and soft tissue infections in adults and children is well established. The unique pharmakinetics of azithromycin makes it a suitable agent for the treatment of acne. Clarithromycin represents a clear advance in the macrolide management of patients with leprosy and skin infections with atypical mycobacteria. Dirithromycin and roxithromycin display no clinical or bacteriological adcantage over erythromycin despite a superior pharmacokinetic profile. An area of concern is the increasing macrolide resistance that is being reported with some of the common pathogens which may limit the clinical usefulness of this class of antimicrobial agents in future.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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