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What is Linezolid?

By R. Britton
Updated May 17, 2024
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Linezolid is a broad spectrum, synthetic antibiotic. This medication is used to treat a wide variety of infections, particularly stubborn ones which have shown resistance to other antibiotics. Linezolid works by inhibiting the ability of problematic bacteria to reproduce. Along with the adverse reactions common to many antibiotics, this drug has a number of potentially very serious side effects, many of which occur more frequently in children after repeated or long-term use.

As a broad spectrum antibiotic, it is commonly prescribed to treat persistent or recurring issues such as urinary tract infections, infections of the blood, infected open wounds, or post-operative infections. Urinary tract infections which frequently reoccur or resist other antibiotic treatments, especially in older people, will often be treated with a prescribed course of linezolid with a view to eradicating the bacteria that cause the infection to reappear.

Linezolid is often prescribed when other antibiotic treatments have been ineffective, or the infection needing treatment has been identified as a mutated antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Nonsocomial pneumonia and MRSA, which both show moderate to high resistance to many available antibiotics, are often treated with linezolid because the bacteria only have low levels of resistance to this drug. This also applies to many other "super bugs" which have developed high resistance to most other conventional antibiotics.

Once in the body, linezolid prevents the invading bacteria from reproducing. This means that the infection cannot spread, and the bacteria present at the infection site eventually die. Rapidly spreading and aggressive infections are treated with this antibiotic because it begins to work very quickly, especially when administered intravenously. For less aggressive infections, it is more commonly administered in an oral tablet or as a liquid solution.

A course of this drug usually lasts between 10 and 28 days depending on the severity of the infection, the age and health of the patient, and how many times linezolid has been administered previously. This drug is not generally a first choice in pediatric treatment because of the significant rise in the number of serious adverse side effects compared with adult linezolid treatment. It is also seldom recommended for those suffering from, or with a history of, kidney, liver, or heart problems or seizures because the risk of adverse effects or worsening of current medical problems increases greatly.

Potentially adverse effects range from mild to life-threatening and include those common to many other antibiotics. They include fever, nausea, lethargy, headaches, diarrhea, constipation, and vomiting. More serious effects include tachycardia, or rapid heartbeat, seizures, blurred vision, impaired short-term memory, and a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. Immediate medical attention is required if any symptoms of anaphylactic shock occur. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, swelling of the mouth, lips and tongue, and a rapidly spreading rash.

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