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A type of antibiotic, oxytetracycline hydrochloride is used both in humans and in farm animals. It can cure infectious diseases caused by a variety of bacterial species, such as foodborne disease, pneumonias and tick-borne illnesses. The drug works by blocking the production of proteins that the bacteria need as materials to replicate.
Produced in nature by a bacterium called Streptomyces rimosus, oxytetracycline hydrochloride is part of the group of antibiotics known as tetracyclines. This group of drugs are broad-spectrum antibiotics, which means that they kill a variety of microbes across many species. A typical dose of oxytetracycline hydrochloride contains up to about 125 milligrams of the drug, along with other ingredients such as inert bulking agents.
When microbes infect the body, they tend to replicate themselves, using the nutrients of the host as food and building materials. Proteins are a particular type of biological material that bacteria like to use, both as structural material and in other essential cell processes. Oxytetracycline hydrochloride acts on the individual bacterial cells to prevent them from making the right proteins. This stops the bacteria from reproducing and allows the host body to clear the infection.
Protein synthesis is part of many bacterial species replication, and oxytetracycline hydrochloride has an effect on a wide variety of infectious species. These range from species that naturally live in the gastrointestinal tract, but can cause disease in high numbers or in certain situations, to species that live in ticks or in birds. Oxytetracycline hydrochloride is the first choice of treatment in some of these diseases, but a second choice in others. It can also be useful to help treat some diseases caused by amoeba, which are small organisms that are not bacterial.
Some countries allow their farm animals to receive oxytetracycline hydrochloride in feed. The substance is fed to poultry, sheep and cattle to help them put on weight before slaughter, or as treatment for infectious disease. Generally, though, the medication is not given to the animal for about a week before slaughter to ensure the antibiotic is not still present in the meat.
Possible side effects of oxytetracycline hydrochloride for a patient taking the drug for an infection range include permanent tooth discoloration in children under the age of eight. It may not be suitable for pregnant or breastfeeding women, or people with kidney or liver problems. Other possible side effects include skin rashes, gastrointestinal upset or lesions in the digestive tract.