oa SA Pharmacist's Assistant - Topical antibacterials : medicine cupboard

Volume 11, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1608-9634
  • E-ISSN: 2220-1068



Topical antibacterial agents include both antiseptic and antibiotic preparations. They kill, inhibit or reduce the number of microorganisms on the skin. The human skin is colonised by a variety of microorganisms that protect against infection, but also serve as a source of infection when the skin barrier is broken. Some people are at particular risk of contracting skin infections, for example people with diabetes, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) or other immune disorders, and those undergoing chemotherapy. Skin that is inflamed or damaged by sunburn, scratching or other trauma is more likely to be infected as any break in the skin barrier predisposes a person to infection.

Antibacterial and antiseptic agents are used to prevent or treat infections. Common topical antiseptics include chlorhexidine and povidone iodine, while mupirocin and polymixin B are familiar over-the-counter topical antibiotics.

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