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Streptomycin is an antibiotic drug, the first of a class of drugs called aminoglycosides to be discovered, and was the first antibiotic remedy for tuberculosis. It is derived from the actinobacterium Streptomyces griseus. Streptomycin is a bactericidal antibiotic. Streptomycin cannot be given orally, but must be administered by regular intramuscular injections. An adverse effect of this medicine is ototoxicity, which can lead to hearing loss.

Mechanism of action

Streptomycin is a protein synthesis inhibitor. It binds to the S12 Protein of the 30S subunit of the bacterial ribosome, interfering with the binding of formyl-methionyl-tRNA to the 30S subunit. This prevents initiation of protein synthesis and leads to death of microbial cells. Humans have structurally different ribosomes from bacteria, thereby allowing the selectivity of this antibiotic for bacteria. However at low concentrations Streptomycin only inhibits growth of the bacteria, this is done by inducing prokaryotic ribosomes to misread mRNA..


Streptomycin was first isolated on October 19, 1943 by Albert Schatz, a graduate student, in the laboratory of Selman Abraham Waksman at Rutgers Universitymarker. Waksman and his laboratory discovered several antibiotics, including actinomycin, clavacin, streptothricin, streptomycin, grisein, neomycin, fradicin, candicidin and candidin. Of these, streptomycin and neomycin found extensive application in the treatment of numerous infectious diseases. Streptomycin was the first antibiotic that could be used to cure the disease tuberculosis; early production of the drug was dominated by Merck & Co. under George W. Merck.

The first randomized trial of streptomycin against pulmonary tuberculosis was carried out in 1947 by the MRC Tuberculosis Research Unit. Whilst neither double-blind nor placebo-controlled, results showed efficacy against TB, albeit with minor toxicity and acquired bacterial resistance to the drug.


Treatment of diseases

While streptomycin is traditionally given intramuscular (indeed, in many countries it is only licensed to be used intramuscularly), the drug may also be administered intravenous.

Bacteria selection experiments

When grown on medium containing streptomycin, bacteria such as Escherichia coli are dependent upon expression of the aadA gene in order to survive (Joung et al., 2000). Thus, a suitably engineered E. coli strain, can be combined with a streptomycin-doped medium to select only bacteria hosting a successful interaction in two-hybrid screening experiments and methods derivative of two-hybrid screening (Hurt et al., 2003; Joung et al., 2000) Streptomycin is an antibiotic that inhibits both gram positive and gram negative bacteria, and is a therefore a useful broad spectrum antibiotic.


Streptomycin is also used as a pesticide, to combat the growth of bacteria, fungi, and algae. Streptomycin controls bacterial and fungal diseases of certain fruit, vegetables, seed, andornamental crops, and controls algae in ornamental ponds and aquaria. A major use is in the control of fireblight on apple and pear trees. As in medical applications, extensive use can be associated with the development of resistant strains.

See also


  1. Donald Voet and Judith G. Voet, Biochemistry 3rd edition, 2004, page 1341, ISBN 0-471-19250-x (cloth)

Further reading

  • . The history behind the discovery of streptomycin.
  • EPA R.E.D. Facts sheet on use of streptomycin as a pesticide.

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