The great number of diverse antibiotics currently available can be classified in different ways, e.g., by their chemical structure, their microbial origin, or their mode of action. They are also frequently designated by their effective range. Tetracyclines, the most widely used broad-spectrum antibiotics, are effective against both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, as well as against rickettsias and psittacosis-causing organisms (see Gram's stain). Ciprofloxacin (Cipro) is another broad-spectrum antibiotic, effective in the treatment of mild infections of the urinary tract and sinuses. The medium-spectrum antibiotics bacitracin, the erythromycins, penicillin, and the cephalosporins are effective primarily against Gram-positive bacteria, although the streptomycin group is effective against some Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria. Polymixins are narrow-spectrum antibiotics effective against only a few species of bacteria.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.