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Chloramphenicol is a low molecular weight, predominantly lipophilic antibiotic and is effective against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, and also against spirochaete, salmonella, rickettsiae and chlamydiae (trachoma). The mechanism of action has been shown to be by selective inhibition of bacterial protein synthesis. Chloramphenicol is moderately effective against Proteus, Serratia, Klebsiella, Enterobacter, E. coli, Staph. aureus, Enterococci, Streptococci, Salmonellae, Haemophilus influenzae and diplococci. Chloramphenicol is ineffective against Pseudomonas, Mycobacterium, fungi and Protozoa. Known resistance to this antibiotic has not changed significantly in recent years.
Chloramphenicol penetrates the cornea thoroughly and therapeutically effective concentration are detectable in the aqueous humour only 15 to 30 minutes after local administration. The half-life is 3-5 hours. In the inflammed eye, the retention time is expected to be shorter. At present there are no data available on the extent of systemic absorption of Chloramphenicol following topical administration to the eye. Up to 50% of the sero-concentration have been detected in breast milk.