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Ampicillin chemical structure
Systematic (IUPAC) name
[3.2.0]heptane-4-carboxylic acid
CAS number 69-53-4
ATC code J01CA01
PubChem 149171
DrugBank APRD00320
Chemical data
Formula C16H18N3O4S
Mol. weight 349.406 g/mol
Pharmacokinetic data
Bioavailability 40% (oral)
Protein binding 15 to 25%
Metabolism  ?
Half life approx 1 hour
Excretion 75 to 85% renal
Therapeutic considerations
Pregnancy cat. A (Au), B (U.S.)
Legal status  
Routes Oral, intravenous

Ampicillin is a beta-lactam antibiotic that has been used extensively to treat bacterial infections since 1961. It can sometimes result in allergic reactions that range in severity from a rash (i.e. patients with mononucleosis) to potentially lethal anaphylaxis.


Mechanism of action

Belonging to the group of beta-lactam antibiotics, ampicillin is able to penetrate Gram-positive and some Gram-negative bacteria. It inhibits the third and final stage of bacterial cell wall synthesis, which ultimately leads to cell lysis.


Ampicillin is closely related to amoxicillin, another type of penicillin, and both are used to treat urinary tract infections, otitis media, uncomplicated community-acquired pneumonia, Haemophilus influenzae, salmonellosis and Listeria meningitis. It is used with flucloxacillin in the combination antibiotic co-fluampicil for empiric treatment of cellulitis; providing cover against Group A streptococcal infection whilst the flucloxacillin acts against the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium. Of concern is the number of bacteria that become resistant to Ampicillin necessitating combination therapy or use of other antibiotics.

Use in research

Ampicillin is often used in molecular biology as a test for the uptake of genes (e.g., by plasmids) by bacteria (e.g., E. coli). A gene that is to be inserted into a bacterium is coupled to a gene coding for an ampicillin resistance (in E. coli, usually the bla gene, coding for β-lactamase). The treated bacteria are then grown on a medium containing ampicillin. Only the bacteria that successfully take up the desired genes become ampicillin resistant, and therefore contain the other desired gene as well.

External links

  • Link page to external chemical sources.

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