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Stephen B Calderwood, MD
Alyssa R Letourneau, MD
Section Editor
David C Hooper, MD
Deputy Editor
Allyson Bloom, MD


Beta-lactam antibiotics are among the most commonly prescribed drugs, grouped together based upon a shared structural feature, the beta-lactam ring. Cephalosporins cover a broad range of organisms, are generally well-tolerated, and are easy to administer; thus, these agents are frequently used beta-lactam drugs.

The classification, spectrum of activity, and pharmacology of the cephalosporins will be reviewed here.

The spectrum of activity of cephalosporins combined with beta-lactamase inhibitors are discussed separately. (See "Combination beta-lactamase inhibitors, carbapenems, and monobactams".)

The mechanisms of action and resistance and major adverse reactions of the beta-lactam antibiotics, and the penicillins and other beta-lactam drugs are also discussed separately. (See "Beta-lactam antibiotics: Mechanisms of action and resistance and adverse effects" and "Penicillin, antistaphylococcal penicillins, and broad-spectrum penicillins" and "Extended-spectrum beta-lactamases".)


Cephalosporins include the closely related cephamycin compounds. The parenteral agents are commonly classified into the following categories:

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Oct 17, 2017.
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