Antibiotic Ointments

Acne-SkincareTopical and systemic antibiotics are commonly used to treat acne, with topical ointments usually used for mild to moderate cases and systemic treatments reserved for patients with moderate to severe acne. However, due to increased risk of resistant bacteria in the last two decades, antibiotics are typically only used for short periods of time. Antibacterial agents like benzoyl peroxide and azelaic acid are often used in combination with antibiotics since this has been shown to reduce the occurrence of resistant bacteria.1

One of the most frequently prescribed topical antibiotic, and most effective, is a cream containing benzoyl peroxide and azelaic acid. Erythromycin has been shown to significantly reduce Propionibacterium acnes P. acnes bacteria, and is available as a solution, ointment, or gel. However, research has raised concerns about the usefulness of 2% erythromycin monotherapy because of increased incidence of bacteria resistant to this antibiotic. But when combined with benzoyl peroxide, retinoids, or zinc it is more effective than monotherapy creams or gels and less likely to contribute to bacterial resistance by P. acnes or opportunistic infection by resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).1

Erythromycin has been challenged in some studies by a relative newcomer to the topical antibiotic genre by nadilfloxacin, sold under the brand name Nadixa®. In a double-blind multinational study, the two were compared during a 12-week treatment period in 474 European teenaged to age-36 male and female patients with slight to moderate acne. Applied twice daily, both creams were found to be effective in significantly reducing acne lesions, including inflamed comedones. Both were also found to be equally safe, with only minor adverse side effects (e.g., itchiness, redness, and dry skin). However, the group randomly assigned to use the 2% erythromycin cream showed significantly higher numbers of resistant P. acnes microbes and other bacteria compared to the group given the 1% nadilfloxacin cream to use.2

Increasing the amount of active drug in monotherapy erythromycin creams from 1-2% to 4% appears to overcome resistant bacteria.1 At least one clinical study testing a 4% erythromycin gel in comparison to a 1% nadilfloxacin cream for patients with mild to moderate acne confirmed that the higher dosage is as effective as nadilfloxacin and remains equally safe and well-tolerated.3

  1. Krautheim, Andrea, Gollnick, Harald P.M. Clinics in Dermatology 22: Topical Treatment of Acne. Elsevier, Inc. [Online] 2004. [Cited: January 06, 2011.] DOI 10.1016/j.clindermatol.2004.03.009.
  2. Plewig, G., Holland, K.T., Nenoff, P. European Journal of Dermatology 16(1): Clinical and bacteriological evaluation of nadifloxacin 1% cream in patients with acne vulgaris: a double-blind, phase III comparison study versus erythromycin 2% cream. John Libbey Eurotext. [Online] January-February 2006. [Cited: January 06, 2011.]
  3. Tunca, M., Akar, A., Ozmen, I., Erbil, H. Int J Dermatol. 49(12): Topical nadifloxacin 1% cream vs. topical erythromycin 4% gel in the treatment of mild to moderate acne. PubMed: U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. [Online] December 2010. [Cited: January 02, 2011.]
A common bacteria found on human skin that is involved in causing acne.
A plug of keratin (proteins) and sebum (oil) within a hair follicle. When visible, it is commonly referred to as a blackhead or whitehead.
Protected by Copyscape Online Copyright Search is not intended to replace professional consultation, diagnosis, or treatment by a licensed professional. If you require any medical-related advice, contact your physician promptly. Information at is exclusively of a general reference nature. Do not disregard medical advice or delay treatment as a result of accessing information on this website or any external links provided on the website.
Copyright © 2023. All Rights are Reserved.

This site uses 'cookies' to maintain browsing session, serve advertising, perform anonymized usage analytics, and provide the service of this website.