Learn More About the Best Antibiotics for Staph Infections

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What is a Staph Infection?

Staph infections commonly affect the skin but can also cause blood poisoning, pneumonia, toxic shock syndrome and inflammation of internal organs and bones. The best antibiotics for staph infections vary according to the severity of the condition and its location. Some staph infections have become resistant to penicillin but there are other treatments available.

Best Antibiotics for Staph Infections

Amoxicillin is one of the penicillin class antibiotics. It kills bacteria by preventing them from forming the walls that surround them. This effectively stops them from multiplying. Side effects include stomach upsets, rash and severe allergic reactions. Rarely it can cause an inflamed bowel, blood changes and nervous system disorders. It is not recommended for people with a history of allergies and those suffering from glandular fever, kidney disorders, leukaemia and HIV infection.

Cephalosporins are a newer class of antibiotics and are regarded as an alternative to penicillin by many doctors. They work in a similar manner to amoxicillin and interfere with the bacterial cell walls, so causing death. Side effects of cephalosporins include headaches, stomach upsets, skin disorders, blood and liver changes, inflamed kidneys, sleep disturbances, confusion, nervousness, dizziness, tense muscles and an inflamed bowel. These antibiotics are not suitable for patients with porphyria and should be used with caution in pregnant or breastfeeding women, people with kidney disorders and those allergic to penicillin.

Rifampicin works by killing the bacteria that are causing the infection. It does this by inactivating a bacterial enzyme called RNA-polymerase. Without this enzyme the bacteria cannot reproduce and they die. The antibiotic can cause a number of side effects including stomach and bowel upsets, kidney problems and failure, blood changes, muscle pain and weakness, disturbed menstrual cycles, liver disorders, influenza-like symptoms, breathing difficulties, fever, shock, rash, blood clots and vein inflammation. Elderly people, small children, the undernourished, and pregnant or breastfeeding mothers are advised to avoid this antibiotic.

Tetracycline inhibits bacterial growth by stopping protein synthesis in the bacteria. Side effects include stomach upsets, irritation of the oesophogus, reddening of the skin, headaches, disturbed vision, sensitivity to light, reversible diabetes, liver disorders and an inflamed pancreas or bowel. It should not be used in children under 12 as it can cause permanent stains on their teeth. It is also not suitable for pregnant or breastfeeding women and people with liver or kidney disorders.

Vancomycin is a strong antibiotic that is normally used in serious cases of staph infection. It belongs to a group of antibiotics called glycopeptides and works by weakening the walls of the bacteria, so causing death. It is often effective in cases of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Vancomycin may occasionally cause kidney or blood disorders, ear damage, severe allergic reactions, nausea, chills, fever, skin disorders, low blood pressure, breathing disorders, itching, flushing, pain and muscle spasm. It should not be used in pregnant and breastfeeding women, the elderly and those with kidney disorders.

The Bottom Line

The best antibiotics for staph infections vary from case to case. The type of staph infection, the part of the body involved, and the severity of the infection will all influence the choice as will any pre-existing conditions in the patient.


A Consumer’s Guide to Prescription Medicines, Dr Barrington Cooper & Dr Laurence Gerlis, Hamlyn, 2001