Neurotoxicity induced by beta-lactam antibiotics: from bench to bedside

Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 2005 Oct;24(10):649-53. doi: 10.1007/s10096-005-0021-y.


Central nervous system toxicity following administration of beta-lactam antibiotics, of which penicillin is the prototype, is a potential cause of morbidity and mortality. In recent years, important advances have been made in the pathogenesis of antibiotic-related neurotoxicity. This review focuses on the experimental and clinical aspects of neurotoxicity caused by beta-lactam antibiotics. The purpose is to provide an update on the pathogenesis, mechanism, and clinical manifestations of the neurotoxicity, along with an overview of the relationship between antibiotic structure and convulsive action. In particular, some of the prevailing ideas about pathogenesis are highlighted, including theories of the mechanism of pathogenicity. A better understanding of antibiotic-related neurotoxicity, as derived from animal models and human clinical experience, would be of value in facilitating more efficient and safer use of antimicrobial compounds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Nervous System Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology
  • beta-Lactams / adverse effects*
  • beta-Lactams / chemistry
  • beta-Lactams / toxicity


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • beta-Lactams