Tetracycline (Sumycin)

  • Generic name: Tetracycline hcl
  • Brand names: Sumycin, Achromycin
  • Drug Class: Antibiotic, Tetracyclines

What is Tetracycline used for?

  • Respiratory tract infections, exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • Skin and soft tissue infections.
  • Urinary tract infections: tetracycline has role for the treatment of susceptible UTIs since it achieves higher urinary levels compared to the hepatically metabolized tertacyclines (e.g. doxycycline, minocycline).
  • Relapsing fever, bartonellosis, tularemiama, plague, cholera, brucellosis, Campylobacter infections.
  • Typhus, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, rickettsial infections, Q fever.
  • Chlamydia trachomatis infections, syphilis, gonorrhea.
  • Acne, rosacea.


  • Pregnancy Category D: Tetracyclines are contraindicated in pregnancy due to retardation of skeletal development and bone growth.
  • Not recommended in children younger than 8 years of age because abnormal bone formation and discoloration of teeth may occur.

Can you take Tetracycline if you are allergic to Penicillin? Yes, you can. These antibiotics belong to different families, so tetracycline is safe for patients who are allergic to penicillin.

Serious drug interactions

  • Tetracycline absorption is decreased by antacids containing magnesium, aluminum or calcium; calcium and iron supplements; sucralfate; bile acid resins; and bismuth subsalicylate. Take tetracycline separately 1 to 2 hours before or 4 hours after.
  • Avoid concomitant use with isotretinoin (Accutane) because of increased risk of benign intracranial hypertension.
  • Tetracycline may interfere with the bactericidal activity of penicillins4.

Tetracycline and alcohol

There is no interaction between tetracycline and alcohol. You won't find any warnings about mixing tetracyclines with alcohol1.

Your doctor may recommend you to avoid alcohol for moral reasons, not pharmacological. But provided you drink in moderation, alcohol is unlikely to interact significantly with tetracycline.

Tetracycline and tooth discoloration

Interestingly, various tetracyclines produce different colour changes. For instance, chlortetracycline produces slate gray colour and oxytetracycline causes a creamy discoloration. Tetracycline usually produces yellow stain.

The formation of discoloured teeth occurs during tooth development and results in an alteration of the light transmitting properties of the tooth structure5. This phenomenon occurs only during the period of the calcification process, and for this reason teeth staining occurs only during the last trimester of pregnancy and in childhood.

Primary teeth are susceptible to discoloration by tetracycline from 4 months in utero through 9 months post partum. Permanent teeth are susceptible from 3 months post partum to 8 years.

Alternatives to Tetracycline

  • Erythromycin is a tetracycline alternative that is safe for use in pregnant women and young children.
  • Doxycycline is the closest relative from the tetracyclines family, with increased oral absorption and better gastrointestinal tolerability.
  • Clindamycin is an alternative to tetracycline in severe inflammatory acne vulgaris. Many dermatologists consider so.
  • Benzoyl peroxide - an acceptable choice for mild acne, which works by killing bacteria P. acnes.


  • 1. Tetracycline Monograph Reference guide from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.
  • 2. Pechère JC. Patients' interviews and misuse of antibiotics. Clin Infect Dis. 2001 Sep 15;33 Suppl 3:S170-3.
  • 3. Matuz M, Benko R, Doro P, Hajdu E, Soos G. Non-prescription antibiotic use in Hungary. Pharm World Sci. 2007 Dec;29(6):695-8.
  • 4. Li RC, Schentag JJ, Nix DE. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 1993 Mar;37(3):523-31.
  • 5. Venkateswarlu M, Naga Sailaja R. Tetracycline induced tooth discoloration. Indian Journal of Dental Advancements.

Last updated: February, 2015

Good to know
Sumycin 500 mg

  • Tetracycline is a natural product of Streptomyces bacteria.
  • Tetracyclines were the first major group of antibacterials to which the term “broad-spectrum” was applied.
  • Because of its wide range of activity, relative safety and low cost, tetracycline has been widely used all over the world.
  • However, the value of this antibiotic has decreased due to increasing bacterial resistance.
  • Tetracycline has anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties.