Neomycin/polymyxin B/bacitracin

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Neomycin/polymyxin B/bacitracin
Combination of
Polymyxin B sulfateAntibiotic
Neomycin sulfateAntibiotic
Bacitracin zincAntibiotic
Clinical data
AHFS/Drugs.comMicromedex Detailed Consumer Information
License data
  • C
Routes of
Legal status
Legal status

Neomycin/polymyxin B/bacitracin, colliquially known as the triple antibiotic ointment and sold under the brand name Neosporin among others, is an antibiotic cream that contains neomycin, polymyxin B, and bacitracin. It is used to prevent infections.[1] As recently as 2018, there have been calls to remove neomycin from the product, and other competing products containing only polymyxin B and Bacitracin A are available.

Medical uses[edit]

Neomycin/polymyxin B/bacitracin ointment is reported to be a safe and effective topical agent for preventing infections in minor skin trauma.[2]

Neosporin is recommended for burns, scratches, cuts, and minor skin infections.[3] It is most effective when the affected area is cleaned before the ointment is applied.[4]


The use of triple-antibiotic ointments, such as neomycin/polymyxin B/bacitracin, decreases infection rates in minor-contaminated wounds.[5] However, if the wound is sterile, then there are no benefits compared to pertrolatum.[5][6]

Side effects[edit]

Neosporin is for external use only and should not be applied near mucous membranes such as the eyes or mouth. Neosporin is not recommended for children under the age of two. Neosporin has no known side effects; however, users should immediately seek medical attention if they experience 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.[7]

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,[8] specifically the highly lethal ST8:USA300 strain.[9] Neosporin has been shown to cause contact dermatitis[10] in some cases, and may contribute to antibiotic resistance.[11][12]


The original ointment contains three different antibiotics: bacitracin, neomycin, and polymyxin B, in a relatively low-molecular-weight 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, the product is named "complex polymyxin B ointment" and 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.[13]

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 three main active ingredients in Neosporin are neomycin sulfate, polymyxin B sulfate, and bacitracin zinc. 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.[14] 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.[15] 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.[16] 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.[17] 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.[18]

In some countries bacitracin is replaced with gramicidin.


Product typeAntibiotic
OwnerJohnson & Johnson
Related brandsPolysporin
MarketsUS and Canada
Previous ownersPfizer

Neosporin is the brand name for a product produced by Johnson & Johnson that contains neomycin sulfate, polymyxin B, and bacitracin. There is no exact date to when the antibacterial ointment was invented, but it was used as early as the 1950s. This antibiotic ointment was patented in the United States on August 27, 1951.[19]


  1. ^ "Neosporin". Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  2. ^ Bonomo, Robert A.; Zile, Peter S. Van; Li, Qing; Shermock, Kenneth M.; McCormick, William G.; Kohut, Bruce (2007-10-01). "Topical triple-antibiotic ointment as a novel therapeutic choice in wound management and infection prevention: a practical perspective". Expert Review of Anti-infective Therapy. 5 (5): 773–782. doi:10.1586/14787210.5.5.773. ISSN 1478-7210.
  3. ^ "Neosporin (neo-bac-polym) topical : Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Pictures, Warnings & Dosing - WebMD". WebMD. Retrieved 2015-12-03.
  4. ^ "Neosporin Facts". Life123. Retrieved 8 May 2015.[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ a b Diehr, S; Hamp, A; Jamieson, B; Mendoza, M (February 2007). "Clinical inquiries. Do topical antibiotics improve wound healing?". The Journal of family practice. 56 (2): 140–4. PMID 17270122. 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]).
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ "Neosporin Would Care FAQs". Neosporin. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  8. ^ Martin, David (14 September 2011). "MRSA in U.S. becoming resistant to over the counter ointment". CNN. Retrieved 2 June 2012.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Sheth, VM; Weitzul, S (2008). "Postoperative topical antimicrobial use". Dermatitis : contact, atopic, occupational, drug. 19 (4): 181–9. PMID 18674453.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ "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
  14. ^ "Neomycin Details". Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  15. ^ "Neomycin Sulfate". RxList. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  16. ^ "Neomycin". Health24. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  17. ^ "polymyxin B sulfate and trimethoprim (Polytrim)". MedicineNet. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  18. ^ "Pramoxine". Medicine Plus. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  19. ^ "Tetracycline type antibiotic ointment". Google. Retrieved 8 May 2015.

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