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Product type Antibiotic
Owner Johnson & Johnson
Introduced 1952
Related brands Polysporin
Markets US and Canada
Previous owners Pfizer
Combination of
Polymyxin B sulfate Antibiotic
Neomycin sulfate Antibiotic
Bacitracin zinc Antibiotic
Clinical data
AHFS/ Micromedex Detailed Consumer Information
Licence data US FDA:link
  • C
Legal status
Routes of
ChemSpider 10481985 YesY
 YesY (what is this?)  (verify)

Neosporin (from neo, (Greek) new + sporos, (Greek) seed) is an antibiotic product marketed for the prevention of infections and speeding the healing of wounds.

Concern exists that the use of Neosporin contributes to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In the US, the only large market for Neosporin, the ointment may promote the prevalence of MRSA bacteria,[1] specifically the highly lethal ST8:USA300 strain.[2]


The original ointment contains three different antibiotics: bacitracin, neomycin, and polymyxin B, in a relatively low-molecular-weight patented base of cocoa butter, cottonseed oil, sodium pyruvate, tocopheryl acetate, and petroleum jelly.

The generic name for these products, regardless of the base, is "triple antibiotic ointment". In China, this product is called "complex polymyxin B ointment," which is manufactured by Zhejiang Reachall Pharmaceutical. The product was also marketed by the Upjohn Company under the name "Mycitracin", until 1997 when that name was acquired by Johnson & Johnson.[3]

Some people have allergic reactions to neomycin, so a "double antibiotic ointment" is sold that contains only bacitracin and polymyxin B, such as the cobrand Polysporin.

A "Plus" variant of the ointment exists that adds the analgesic pramoxine, but uses the cheap, simple, long-lasting, but heavier petroleum jelly base common to many over-the-counter topicals. The latest version of this, a high-absorption cream, removes the bacitracin, which is unstable in such a base, but keeps the analgesic.

Active Ingredients[edit]

The four main active ingredients in Neosporin are Neomycin sulfate, Polymyxin B, Pramoxine, and Bacitracin. One of the main components of Neosporin is Neomycin Sulfate which is a type of antibiotic discovered in 1949 by microbiologist Selman Waksman at Rutgers University.[4] Neomycin is a type of aminoglycoside antibiotic that fights against Gram positive and gram negative bacteria. Neomycin is often used in order to prevent risk of bacterial infections.[5] Aminoglycosides such as Neomycin are known for their ability to bind to RNA and to change the proteins being produced by the bacteria with little to no effect on DNA. Neomycin kills bacteria as a result of irregular protein production in the bacterial cell. When the cell can no longer produce the correct proteins, its membrane will be damaged.[6] Like Neomycin, Polymyxin B is an antibiotic. Polymyxin B alters the bacterial cell wall causing the cellular insides to leak out resulting in cell death. This antibiotic also interferes with the production of tetrahydrofolic acid by altering an enzyme. Without the tetrahydrofolic acid, the bacteria can no longer produce proteins necessary for survival.[7] Pramoxine is used to temporarily reduce pain from burns, insect bites, and minor cuts. It works like an anesthetic by decreasing the permeability of neuron membranes. This blocks the ability of pain neurons in the area to send signals which results in numbness.[8] The Vitamin E contained in Neosporin is known to speed up the recovery of injured skin tissue. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects and repairs skin. Antioxidants do this by neutralizing free radicals and preventing cellular damage from occurring. Vitamin E is a very strong antioxidant that can also help prevent the formation of scars.[9]

In some countries bacitracin is replaced with Gramicidin.


Neosporin is the brand name for a product produced by Johnson & Johnson that contains Neomycin Sulfate, Polymyxin B, and Bacitracin Zinc.[10] There is no exact date to when the antibacterial ointment was invented, but it was used as early as the 1950s. This tetracycline type antibiotic ointment was patented in the United States on August 27, 1951.[11]


Neosporin is recommended for burns, scratches, and minor cuts. It is most effective when affected area is cleaned before application of ointment.[12]

Warnings/Side Effects[edit]

Neosporin is for external use only and should not go near mucus membranes such as the eyes or mouth. Neosporin is not recommended for children under the age of two. There are no known side effects when using Neosporin, however users should immediately seek medical attention when experiencing hives, rashes, or itching. Any skin irritations such as pain, burning, or cracked skin that were not present prior to use of ointment must receive immediate care.[13]


One study showed no evidence that covering a small wound with Polysporin provided any benefit greater than that of simple petroleum jelly (although this study admits the sample size was relatively small),[14] while another study showed that minor wounds treated with Neosporin showed a "significantly" decreased rate of infection.[15] Neosporin has been shown to cause contact dermatitis[16] in some cases, and may contribute to antibiotic resistance.[17][18]


  1. ^ Martin, David (14 September 2011). "MRSA in U.S. becoming resistant to over the counter ointment". CNN. Retrieved 2 June 2012. 
  2. ^ Suzuki, M; Yamada, K; Nagao, M; Aoki, E; Matsumoto, M; Hirayama, T; Yamamoto, H; Hiramatsu, R; Ichiyama, S; Iinuma, Yoshitsugu (2011). "Antimicrobial ointments and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus USA300". Emerging infectious diseases 17 (10): 1917–20. doi:10.3201/eid1710.101365. PMC 3310646. PMID 22000371. 
  3. ^ "McNeil Consumer Products Co. strengthens worldwide lead in OTC pain reliever market" (Press Release). Business Wire (Fort Washington, PA: Business Wire). June 5, 1997. Retrieved June 28, 2011 
  4. ^ "Neomycin Details". Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  5. ^ "Neomycin Sulfate". RxList. Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  6. ^ "Neomycin". Health24. Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  7. ^ "polymyxin B sulfate and trimethoprim (Polytrim)". MedicineNet. Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  8. ^ "Pramoxine". Medicine Plus. Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  9. ^ "How does vitamin E benefit skin?". Howstuffworks. Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  10. ^ "Neosporin Facts". Life123. Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  11. ^ "Tetracycline type antibiotic ointment". Google. Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  12. ^ "Neosporin Facts". Life123. Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  13. ^ "Neosporin Would Care FAQs". Neosporin. Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  14. ^ Draelos, ZD; Rizer, RL; Trookman, NS (2011). "A comparison of postprocedural wound care treatments: Do antibiotic-based ointments improve outcomes?". Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 64 (3 Suppl): S23–9. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2010.11.010. PMID 21247662. 
  15. ^ "Do topical antibiotics improve wound healing?" Diehr, Sabina; Hamp, Andrew; Jamieson, Barbara. Journal of Family Practice 56(2) 2007: 140+. Abstract: The use of topical triple-antibiotic ointments significantly decreases infection rates in minor contaminated wounds compared with a petrolatum control. Plain petrolatum ointment is equivalent to triple-antibiotic ointments for sterile wounds as a post-procedure wound dressing (strength of recommendation [SOR]: A, based on randomized controlled trials [RCTs]).
  16. ^ Sheth, VM; Weitzul, S (2008). "Postoperative topical antimicrobial use". Dermatitis : contact, atopic, occupational, drug : official journal of the American Contact Dermatitis Society, North American Contact Dermatitis Group 19 (4): 181–9. PMID 18674453. 
  17. ^ Spann, CT; Taylor, SC; Weinberg, JM (2004). "Topical antimicrobial agents in dermatology". Disease-a-month : DM 50 (7): 407–21. doi:10.1016/j.disamonth.2004.05.011. PMID 15280871. 
  18. ^ Trookman, NS; Rizer, RL; Weber, T (2011). "Treatment of minor wounds from dermatologic procedures: A comparison of three topical wound care ointments using a laser wound model". Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 64 (3 Suppl): S8–15. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2010.11.011. PMID 21247665. 

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