Hopkins ABX Guide

Linezolid Antibiotic

What is Linezolid and When It is Used?

Linezolid is an antibiotic from the oxazolidinone group of antibiotics and one of only two marketed oxazolidinones. It is a relatively new antibiotic although oxazolidinones are known to have antimicrobial activity since the 1970s. Their potential in clinical use was discovered by a group of researchers at the American chemical company of E. I. Pont de Nemours and Company. But the early derivatives were toxic to liver and the development was halted for nearly a decade.

In the 1990s, the work started by de Nemours’ scientists was continued by researchers at Pharmacia & Upjohn (in 2002, acquired by Pfizer) who managed to develop two compounds with a potential for clinical use. And one of these two compounds was linezolid. In 2000, it was approved in the United States and one year later, in Britain. In the UK, it is available under brand name of Zyvox.

This antibiotic is used for treatment of severe infections of the skin, soft tissues and lung (pneumonia but only hospital-acquired) that are caused by Gram-positive bacteria insusceptible/resistant to other commonly used antibiotics including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant enteroccoci. Linezolid works by inhibiting synthesis of proteins and by doing so, preventing bacterial growth. Strains of bacteria resistant to this antibiotic have been confirmed as early as 1999, before it was even approved for clinical use. But so far linezolid resistance is very low although this may change in the near future.

How is Linezolid Taken/Administered?

Linezolid is either taken orally in the form of tablet or suspension but it may also be administered intravenously. Dosage and duration of linezolid therapy tend to vary from one patient to another, depending on the severity of the infection and some other factors including tolerability, overall health, side effects, etc.

Side Effects of Linezolid

Like other medications, linezolid can cause side effects as well. But when used for a short time, the risk of adverse effects is low, at least the severe ones. Also, the antibiotic is safe for people of all age groups. It is also safe for people with kidney and liver disease. The most common side effects in short-term therapy include nausea, diarrhoea and headache.

Long-term use can cause more severe side effects including yeast infections (thrush, vaginal candidiasis), bone marrow suppression, chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, lactic acidosis and thrombocytopenia (decrease of platelets in the blood). Severe allergic reactions and Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhoea are rare.