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Chloramphenicol oral

Updated 2 Feb 2023 | Chloramphenicol

Drugs List

  • chloramphenicol 250mg capsules
  • Therapeutic Indications


    Life-threatening infections untreatable with less toxic antimicrobials
    Meningitis caused by haemophilus influenzae: treatment
    Typhoid: treatment

    Treatment of life-threatening infections including typhoid, meningitis caused by haemophilus influenzae, and other serious infections caused by susceptible bacteria where other antibiotics are inappropriate.

    Chloramphenicol should not be used for trivial infections due to the possibility of severe and potentially fatal blood disorders.



    50mg/kg daily in four divided doses.

    Dose may be doubled in severe infections (e.g. meningitis, septicaemia) but should be reduced as soon as is clinically indicated.


    Children aged 1 month to 18 years (unlicensed)
    12.5mg/kg every 6 hours. Dose may be doubled in severe infections, but should be reduced as soon as is clinically indicated.

    Plasma chloramphenicol concentrations should be measured and high doses reduced as soon as is clinically indicated.

    For young children other formulations of chloramphenicol may be more appropriate.


    Neonates under 1 month
    Pregnancy at term

    Precautions and Warnings

    Children 1 month to 18 years
    Hepatic impairment
    Renal impairment

    Blood counts should be performed before and periodically during treatment
    Monitor for signs of bone marrow depression
    Monitor plasma levels and adapt dose in patients with hepatic impairment
    Monitor plasma levels and adapt dose in patients with renal impairment
    Avoid repeated or prolonged use

    Chloramphenicol may cause severe bone marrow depression which can lead to aplastic anaemia. High doses, prolonged administration or repeated courses are usually associated with these effects but they may also occur at relatively low doses.

    Pregnancy and Lactation


    Chloramphenicol should not be used during pregnancy unless there is a serious indication.

    Schaefer suggests the drug should not be used in the last weeks of pregnancy as, owing to inadequate metabolism in the neonate, toxic concentrations can be reached. This may cause grey baby syndrome (feeding problems, vomiting, ash-grey skin, respiratory distress and cardiovascular collapse) which may be fatal in the neonate. If chloramphenicol has been taken in early pregnancy, it does not require termination of pregnancy or additional invasive diagnostic procedures. The manufacturers suggest chloramphenicol is contraindicated during breastfeeding.

    Chloramphenicol is known to cross the placenta at term producing 30 to 106% of maternal levels. Cases of exposure during pregnancy have been reported but no evidence has been found to suggest a relationship to congenital malformations.

    The use of all medication in pregnancy should be avoided whenever possible; particularly in the first trimester. Non-drug treatments should also be considered. When essential, a medication with the best safety record over time should be chosen, employing the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time. Polypharmacy should be avoided. Teratogens taken in the pre-embryonic period, often quoted as lasting until 14 to 17 days post-conception, are believed to have an all-or-nothing effect. Where drugs have a short half-life, and when the date of conception is certain, this may allow women to be reassured where drug exposure has occurred within this time frame. Further advice may be available from the UK National Teratology Information Service (NTIS) and through ToxBase, available via password on the internet ( ) or if this is unavailable at the backup site ( ).


    Chloramphenicol is contraindicated during breastfeeding.

    The Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed) suggests using an alternative drug or discontinuing breastfeeding. Milk levels are considered too low to cause grey baby syndrome but chloramphenicol-induced aplastic anaemia remains a possibility as this is not dose related. If the mother must receive chloramphenicol, it is advisable to monitor blood counts in the breastfed infant and check for gastrointestinal disturbances. The manufacturers suggest chloramphenicol is contraindicated during breastfeeding.

    Chloramphenicol is known to be present in human breast milk.

    The following have been noted in breastfed infants of chloramphenicol dosed mothers: refusal of milk, vomiting, excessive gas, falling asleep during feeding. Modification of infant bowel flora is also possible.

    Neonates, infants born prematurely, those with low birth weight, those with an unstable gastrointestinal function or who have serious illnesses may require special consideration. For any infant, if a drug is prescribed to the nursing mother, it should be at the lowest practical dose and for the shortest time. When drug administration is unavoidable and breastfeeding is to continue, minimisation of exposure of the infant to the drug may sometimes be achieved by timing the maternal doses to just after a feeding episode. Infants exposed to drugs via breast milk should be monitored for unusual signs or symptoms. Interactions between the drug received by the infant from the mother's milk and medication prescribed for the infant should also be considered, for example, when the drug given to the infant may prevent metabolism of the drug received via breast milk.
    Specialist advice is available from the UK Drugs in Lactation Advisory Service at

    Side Effects

    Aplastic anaemia
    Blood disorders
    Bone marrow depression
    Cardiovascular collapse
    Dry mouth
    Erythema multiforme
    Grey syndrome
    Hypersensitivity reactions
    Increased bleeding tendency
    Loss of vision(transient)
    Nocturnal haemoglobinuria
    Optic neuritis
    Peripheral neuritis


    It is strongly recommended that the UK National Poisons Information Service be consulted on cases of suspected or actual overdose where there is doubt over the degree of risk or about appropriate management.

    The following number will direct the caller to the relevant local centre (0844) 892 0111

    Information may be obtained if you have access to ToxBase the primary clinical toxicology database of the National Poisons Information Service. This is available via password on the internet ( ) or if this is unavailable at the backup site ( ).

    Reference Sources

    Drugs During Pregnancy and Lactation: Treatment Options and Risk Assessment, 2nd edition (2007) ed. Schaefer, C., Peters, P. and Miller, R. Elsevier, London.

    Drugs in Pregnancy and Lactation: A Reference Guide to Fetal and Neonatal Risk, 9th edition (2011) ed. Briggs, G., Freeman, R. and Yaffe, S. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Philadelphia.

    Summary of Product Characteristics: Chloramphenicol capsules. Chemidex Pharma. Revised August 2007.

    NICE - Evidence Services
    Available at:
    Last accessed: 22 June 2017.

    US National Library of Medicine. Toxicology Data Network. Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed).
    Available at:
    Chloramphenicol. Last revised: September 7, 2013.
    Last accessed: June 19, 2014.

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