What is Kanamycin?

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  • Written By: Dulce Corazon
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2019
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Kanamycin sulfate, or simply kanamycin, is one of several aminoglycoside antibiotics frequently used in the treatment of infections caused by bacteria, especially the gram-negative bacteria. Examples of these gram-negative bacteria are Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Proteus organisms. Infection with Escherichia coli often results in stomach pain and diarrhea with blood in the stool. Klebsiella pneumonia infection usually leads to lung and urinary tract problems, and infection with Proteus organisms also causes diarrhea. This drug usually works by halting the production of essential proteins needed by bacteria for their growth, killing them.

Patients with serious bacterial infections are frequently given kanamycin injections, either directly in the muscle or through the vein. Physicians usually consider the body weight of patients when determining the proper drug dosage. In some cases, specifically with infections caused by some strains of Staphylococcus organisms, a kanamycin ointment may also be used. It is often important for patients to follow their physician's instructions on how and when to take these medications, and when to stop using them in order for treatment to be effective.


Similar to most drugs, kanamycin also has several side effects. These include hearing loss, dizziness, breathing difficulty, and allergy symptoms, such as itching and swelling of the face. When these are experienced, patients are generally advised to get medical attention immediately. Other side effects include vomiting, diarrhea, headache, and pain at the injection site. Some women may also observe vaginal irritation or growth of fungi in the vaginal area when using this drug for prolonged periods.

Kanamycin also has some harmful effects on the nerves and kidneys. This is why tests for nerve and kidney functions are regularly being done to monitor these patients. Signs of nerve problems include tingling of the skin, twitching of the muscles, and numbness in some parts of the body. Side effects in the kidneys can include low urine volume. In pregnant women and breastfeeding mother, the use kanamycin is usually not recommended.

Before using this drug, patients are often urged to inform their physicians about other medications they may be taking. The mixture of kanamycin with certain drugs can sometimes result in dangerous drug interactions inside the body. Examples are diuretics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and some muscle relaxants, among many others.


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