Tobramycin: a review of its antibacterial and pharmacokinetic properties and therapeutic use

Drugs. 1976;12(3):166-200. doi: 10.2165/00003495-197612030-00002.


Tobramycin is a new aminoglycoside antibiotic with a broad antibacterial spectrum in vitro, and pharmacokinetic properties similar to those for gentamicin. Tobramycin is more active than gentamicin against Pseudomonas aeruginosa and active against many gentamicin resistant strains, but is not active against enterobacteriaceae resistant to gentamicin. Theoretically, tobramycin has an advantage over gentamicin against infections caused by P. aeruginosa, but any advantage in clinical practice has yet to be adequately demonstrated. Clinical experience with tobramycin is considerably less than with gentamicin. Whilst tobramycin appears to offer no clear advantages over gentamicin against sensitive organisms it is indicated in infection caused by strains of P. aeruginosa which are resistant to gentamicin, but sensitive to tobramycin. Like gentamicin, tobramycin acts synergistically with corbenicillin and the cephalosporins. The efficacy of the tobramycin-carbenicillin combination has been shown in endocarditis caused by P. aeruginosa which was unresponsive to gentamicin plus carbenicillin. Ototoxicity and nephrotoxicity similar to that seen with other animoglycosides have been encountered in therapeutic trials with tobramycin and wider clinical experience is necessary to determine the relative incidence of these side-effects with gentamicin and tobramycin used under similar conditions. Antimicrobial activity: In comparative studies, in vitro, tobramycin is more active than gentamicin against clinical isolates of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Similarly, the inhibitory index, which is the ratio between the serum concentration attained at usual therapuetic doses and the minimum inhibitory concentration, for Pseudomonas aeruginosa is higher for tobramycin than for gentamicin. Against Gram-negative bacteria other than Pseudomonas spp. the spectrum of activity of tobramycin is similar to that of gentamicin. For most species the activity of tobramycin is slightly less than that of gentamicin. Gentamicin is consistently more active than tobramycin against Serratia marcescens. Like other aminoglycoside antibiotics, tobramycin is active in vitro in low concentrations against Staphylococcus aureus. Tobramycin is essentially inactive against Streptococcus pyogenes, Streptococcus faecalis and Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococci). Maner aminoglycosides and of other antibiotics against various bacteria in vitro, but comparisons between studies cannot always be interpreted literally because the activity of many antibiotics in vitro, including tobramycin, is influenced by the nature of the culture media and the presence of certain salts. The sensitivity of P. aeruginosa to tobramycin is influenced by the magnesium, and calcium content of the culture media whilst that of all species is reduced by sodium ions. Wide variations in the concentration of these ions may result in divergent MIC values and an inappropriate choice of antibacterial agent to treat pseudomonas infection...

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Cats
  • Child
  • Dogs
  • Drug Incompatibility
  • Female
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Rabbits
  • Rats
  • Tobramycin / administration & dosage
  • Tobramycin / adverse effects
  • Tobramycin / metabolism
  • Tobramycin / pharmacology*
  • Tobramycin / therapeutic use
  • Tobramycin / toxicity


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Tobramycin