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What is Amphotericin B?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 20 November 2016
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Amphotericin B is a prescription medication used to treat severe fungal infections. The drug is usually administered through an intravenous (IV) drip line so it can reach the bloodstream immediately. Amphotericin B is effective against many different types of fungi, including those that cause histoplasmosis and aspergillosis. Potentially serious side effects can occur, so it is important to follow a doctor's instructions exactly when using the medication and contact a health-care professional if negative reactions arise.

Antifungal drugs such as Amphotericin B work by weakening the protective membranes surrounding fungal cells. Once the drug reaches the bloodstream, it seeks out fungal cells and break up sterols, which are chemical compounds that direct the flow of fluid and nutrients in and out of the cells. Compromised sterols cause membranes to break down, which leads to quick cell death. Amphotericin B also helps prevent new spores from developing by disrupting the synthesis of membranes.

In most cases, doctors reserve Amphotericin B treatment for patients with life-threatening infections. Other less potent antifungals may be prescribed first in an attempt to treat symptoms because the risk of complications is lower. If other drugs are ineffective, a doctor can administer a very small IV dose of Amphotericin B to see if problems start to improve. Dosage amounts are gradually increased based on the patient's tolerance level.

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Individuals with severe infections are usually given treatment in an inpatient hospital under constant monitoring by doctors and nurses. If a patient is stable and appears to respond well to the drug, he or she may be allowed to leave the hospital and receive treatments from a home health-care nurse. Whether at home or the hospital, Amphotericin B is usually given through a slow drip line for two to six hours at a time every other day. Exact dosage amounts and frequencies are determined based on the patient's specific condition and the rate of symptom improvement.

A person may experience several unwanted side effects when taking Amphotericin B. The most common reactions include nausea, lightheadedness, headache, and loss of appetite that tend to improve within a few hours of receiving a dose. Other lasting side effects such as fever, chills, frequent vomiting, confusion, and hearing loss need to be addressed by a doctor. Rarely, a patient may have a seizure or develop severe breathing difficulties that require immediate attention at an emergency room. With proper monitoring, most side effects can be alleviated or prevented before they cause major health complications.

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