Different types of antibiotics and their uses

What Are Antibiotics?

Antibiotics are drugs that are used for eliminating infections caused by bacteria. There are two ways of how antibiotics work, including killing the bacteria or preventing it from reproducing.

The term antibiotic means “against life.” First antibiotics were discovered in the 1920s, but before this time millions of people had died even from simple bacterial infections. Antibiotics are an important part of different types of surgeries, helping prevent infections or treating them effectively. Thanks to the massive use of antibiotics that started in the 1940s, surgeries have become safer, life expectancy has increased, and lots of lives have been saved.

According to the Weizmann scientists, our bodies contain around 39 trillion bacterial cells. Most of them are harmless, but some are helpful. Bacteria are able to infect any organ, and that is why the use of antibiotic is so important.

Antibiotics are used for the treatment of a wide range of infections including the following:

  • Sinus and ear infections;
  • Bacterial pneumonia;
  • Strep throat;
  • Dental infections;
  • Meningitis;
  • Skin infections;
  • Bladder infections;
  • Kidney infections;
  • Whooping cough.

In fact, bacterial infections can only be treated with antibiotics, but these drugs are useless against viral infections, such as:

  • Most sore throats;
  • Flu;
  • Some bronchitis infections;
  • Cold;
  • Most coughs;
  • Stomach flu.

Because it is not always clear whether a person has viral or bacterial infections, and it is time-consuming and costly to make additional tests, antibiotics are often overused. This has resulted in antibiotic resistance, a major thread that makes antibiotics helpless against some bacteria.

Further, you will find information on different types of antibiotics and their uses.

What Types of Antibiotics Exist?

All antibiotics are divided into two types based on their abilities to destroy multiple bacterial infections, including:

  • Broad-spectrum antibiotics that are able to kill different bacteria;
  • Narrow-spectrum drugs that can be used to manage infections caused by specific bacteria.

Most antibiotics have two different names, including the brand and generic name. The brand name is given to a medication by the manufacturer, and a generic name is given based on its chemical class or chemical structure.

All in all, more than one hundred antibiotics exist, and most of them belong to several types of drugs, including the following:

  • Sulfonamides;
  • Tetracyclines;
  • Fluoroquinolones;
  • Cephalosporins;
  • Penicillins;
  • Macrolides;


Sulfonamides are used for the treatment of urinary tract infections and acne. The following medications belong to Sulfonamides:

  • Sulfadiazine;
  • Septrin (co-trimoxazole);
  • Gantanol (sulfamethoxazole);
  • Bactrim, Septra DS, Bactrim DS, and Septra (Trimethoprim-Sulfamethoxazole);
  • Trimpex, Primsol, and Proloprim (Trimethoprim);
  • Azulfidine EN-tabs, Sulfazine, and Azulfidine (Sulfasalazine);
  • Gantrisin (Sulfisoxazole).


Tetracyclines belong to broad-spectrum antibiotics that can treat the following conditions:

  • Urinary tract infections;
  • Respiratory tract infections;
  • Intestine infections;
  • Rosacea and acne;
  • Chlamydia (usually, they are used in patients with allergy to macrolides and β-lactams).

The following drugs are tetracyclines:

  • Tetracycline;
  • Meclocycline;
  • Doxycycline;
  • Oxytetracycline;
  • Lymecycline;
  • Demeclocycline;
  • Metacycline;
  • Minocycline;
  • Clomocycline;
  • Penimepicycline;
  • Incyclinide.


Fluoroquinolones are used to treat infections caused by the following bacteria:

  • Moraxella catarrhalis;
  • Enterobacteriaceae;
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis;
  • Haemophilus influenza;
  • Legionella sp;
  • Chlamydia sp;
  • Chlamydophila sp;
  • Atypical mycobacteria;
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa;
  • Mycoplasma sp;
  • Methicillin-sensitive staphylococci.

The following medications belong to fluoroquinolones:

  • Ciprofloxacin;
  • Norfloxacin;
  • Ofloxacin;
  • Gemifloxacin;
  • Moxifloxacin.


Cephalosporins belong to β-lactam antibiotics produced from Acremonium. These antibiotics are prescribed in treating and preventing infections caused by some gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria, including the following:

  • Pneumonia;
  • Ear infections;
  • Meningitis;
  • Skin infections;
  • Kidney infections;
  • STIs;
  • Bone infections;
  • Strep throat.

The following drugs belong to Cephalosporins:

  • cefazolin (Kefazol and Ancef);
  • cefaclor (Cefaclor and Ceclor);
  • Cefdinir;
  • cefuroxime (Zinacef and Ceftin);
  • cefadroxil (Duricef);
  • cephalexin (Keftabs and Keflex);
  • cefepime (Maxipime);
  • ceftriaxone (Rocephin);
  • cefixime (Suprax);
  • ceftaroline fosamil (Teflaro).


Penicillins are a group of antibiotics produced based on Penicillium fungi that include the following drugs:

  • Penicillin G;
  • Procaine penicillin;
  • Penicillin V;
  • Benzathine penicillin.

They are used for treating infections caused by streptococci and staphylococci causing such infections as:

  • Urinary tract infections;
  • Respiratory tract infections;
  • Dental infections;
  • Skin infections;
  • Ear infections;
  • Gonorrhea, and others.


Macrolides include the following medications:

  • Roxithromycin;
  • Erythromycin;
  • Clarithromycin;

They are used for the treatment of the following infections caused by gram-positive or gram-negative bacteria:

  • Skin infections;
  • Soft tissue infections;
  • Respiratory infections;
  • STIs;
  • Pylori infections;
  • Atypical mycobacterial infections.


Aminoglycosides are medications that can fight certain aerobic and gram-negative infections like pseudomonas, enterobacter, and acinetobacter. The following drugs belong to aminoglycosides:

  • Sisomicin;
  • Streptomycin;
  • Tobramycin;
  • Kanamycin A;
  • Neomycin E;
  • Netilmicin;
  • Gentamicin;
  • Amikacin;
  • Dibekacin;
  • Neomycins B, C.

How to Choose the Right Antibiotic?

Each antibiotic can fight certain infections, and that is the most important factor that is taken into consideration when an antibiotic is chosen. There are also additional important factors that are also taken to attention, including:

  • If a patient has an allergy to certain types of antibiotics;
  • Dosing schedule;
  • Medication cost;
  • Possible side effects.

Some patients have to take special laboratory tests to help choose the right medication. Only a healthcare provider should choose the right drug for you, including the dosage and the length of treatment.

If you do not follow all recommendations of your healthcare provider, bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics, requiring using more potent medications that come with a higher risk of side effects or other complications.