May 27, 2016
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SEPTRA is rapidly absorbed following oral administration. Both sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim exist in the blood as unbound, protein-bound, and metabolized forms; sulfamethoxazole also exists as the conjugated form. Sulfamethoxazole is metabolized in humans to at least 5 metabolites: the N4-acetyl-, N4-hydroxy-, 5-methylhydroxy-, N4-acetyl-5methylhydroxy- sulfamethoxazole metabolites, and an N-glucuronide conjugate. The formation of N4-hydroxy metabolite is mediated via CYP2C9.

Trimethoprim is metabolized in vitro to 11 different metabolites, of which, five are glutathione adducts and six are oxidative metabolites, including the major metabolites, 1- and 3-oxides and the 3- and 4-hydroxy derivatives.

The free forms of sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim are considered to be the therapeutically active forms. In vitro studies suggest that trimethoprim is a substrate of P-glycoprotein, OCT1 and OCT2, and that sulfamethoxazole is not a substrate of P-glycoprotein.

Approximately 44% of trimethoprim and 70% of sulfamethoxazole are bound to plasma proteins. The presence of 10 mg percent sulfamethoxazole in plasma decreases the protein binding of trimethoprim by an insignificant degree; trimethoprim does not influence the protein binding of sulfamethoxazole.

Peak blood levels for the individual components occur 1 to 4 hours after oral administration. The mean serum half-lives of sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim are 10 and 8 to 10 hours, respectively. However, patients with severely impaired renal function exhibit an increase in the half-lives of both components, requiring dosage regimen adjustment (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION). Detectable amounts of trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole are present in the blood 24 hours after drug administration. During administration of 160 mg trimethoprim and 800 mg sulfamethoxazole b.i.d., the mean steady-state plasma concentration of trimethoprim was 1.72 mcg/mL. The steady-state minimal plasma levels of free and total sulfamethoxazole were 57.4 mcg/mL and 68.0 mcg/mL, respectively. These steady-state levels were achieved after 3 days of drug administration.1

Excretion of sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim is primarily by the kidneys through both glomerular filtration and tubular secretion. Urine concentrations of both sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim are considerably higher than are the concentrations in the blood. The average percentage of the dose recovered in urine from 0 to 72 hours after a single oral dose is 84.5% for total sulfonamide and 66.8% for free trimethoprim. Thirty percent of the total sulfonamide is excreted as free sulfamethoxazole, with the remaining as N4-acetylated metabolite.2 When administered together as SEPTRA, neither sulfamethoxazole nor trimethoprim affects the urinary excretion pattern of the other.

Both trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole distribute to sputum, vaginal fluid, and middle ear fluid; trimethoprim also distributes to bronchial secretions, and both pass the placental barrier and are excreted in human milk.

Geriatric Pharmacokinetics

The pharmacokinetics of sulfamethoxazole 800 mg and trimethoprim 160 mg were studied in 6 geriatric subjects (mean age: 78.6 years) and 6 young healthy subjects (mean age: 29.3 years) using a non-US approved formulation. Pharmacokinetic values for sulfamethoxazole in geriatric subjects were similar to those observed in young adult subjects. The mean renal clearance of trimethoprim was significantly lower in geriatric subjects compared with young adult subjects (19 mL/h/kg vs. 55 mL/h/kg). However, after normalizing by body weight, the apparent total body clearance of trimethoprim was an average 19% lower in geriatric subjects compared with young adult subjects.3


Mechanism of Action

Sulfamethoxazole inhibits bacterial synthesis of dihydrofolic acid by competing with paraaminobenzoic acid (PABA). Trimethoprim blocks the production of tetrahydrofolic acid from dihydrofolic acid by binding to and reversibly inhibiting the required enzyme, dihydrofolate reductase. Thus, SEPTRA blocks two consecutive steps in the biosynthesis of nucleic acids and proteins essential to many bacteria.

Mechanism of Resistance

In vitro studies have shown that bacterial resistance develops more slowly with SEPTRA than with either trimethoprim or sulfamethoxazole alone.

SEPTRA has have been shown to be active against most strains of the following microorganisms, both in vitro and in clinical infections as described in the INDICATIONS AND USAGE section.

Aerobic gram-positive microorganisms

Streptococcus pneumoniae

Aerobic gram-negative microorganisms

Escherichia coli
Haemophilus influenzae

Morganella morganii

Proteus mirabilis

Proteus vulgaris

Shigella flexneri

Shigella sonnei

Other Organisms

Pneumocystis jiroveci

Susceptibility Testing Methods

When available, the clinical microbiology laboratory should provide the results of in vitro susceptibility test results for antimicrobial drug products used in resident hospitals to the physician as periodic reports that describe the susceptibility profile of nosocomial and community-acquired pathogens. These reports should aid the physician in selecting an antibacterial drug for treatment.

Dilution Techniques

Quantitative methods are used to determine antimicrobial minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs). These MICs provide estimates of the susceptibility of bacteria to antimicrobial compounds. The MICs should be determined using a standardized test method (broth or agar)4,5 The MIC values should be interpreted according to the criteria provided in Table 1.

Diffusion Techniques

Quantitative methods that require measurement of zone diameters can also provide reproducible estimates of the susceptibility of bacteria to antimicrobial compounds. The zone size provides an estimate of the susceptibility of bacteria to antimicrobial compounds. The zone size should be determined using a standardized test method5,6. This procedure uses paper disks impregnated with 1.25/23.75 μg of trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole to test the susceptibility of microorganisms to SEPTRA. The disc diffusion interpretive criteria are provided in Table 1.

Table 1: Susceptibility Test Interpretive Criteria for Trimethoprim/Sulfamethoxazole

Bacteria Minimal Inhibitory Concentration (mcg/mL) Zone Diameter (mm)
Enterobacteriaceae ≤ 2/38 - ≥ 4/76 ≥ 16 11 – 15 ≤ 10
Haemophilus influenzae ≤ 0.5/9.5 1/19 – 2/38 ≥ 4/76 ≥ 16 11 – 15 ≤ 10
Streptococcus pneumoniae ≤ 0.5/9.5 1/19 – 2/38 ≥ 4/76 ≥ 19 16 – 18 ≤ 15

A report of “Susceptible” indicates that the antimicrobial is likely to inhibit growth of the pathogen if the antimicrobial compound reaches the concentrations at the site of infection necessary to inhibit growth of the pathogen. A report of “Intermediate” indicates that the result should be considered equivocal, and, if the microorganism is not fully susceptible to alternative, clinically feasible drugs, the test should be repeated. This category implies possible clinical applicability in body sites where the drug is physiologically concentrated or in situations where high dosage of drug can be used. This category also provides a buffer zone that prevents small uncontrolled technical factors from causing major discrepancies in interpretation.

A report of “Resistant” indicates that the antimicrobial is not likely to inhibit growth of the pathogen if the antimicrobial compound reaches the concentrations usually achievable at the infection site; other therapy should be selected.

Quality Control

Standardized susceptibility test procedures require the use of laboratory controls to monitor and ensure the accuracy and precision of supplies and reagents used in the assay and the techniques of the individuals performing the test4-6. Standard trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole powder should provide the following range of MIC values noted in Table 2. For the diffusion technique using the 1.25/23.75 μg trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole disk the criteria in Table 2 should be achieved.

Table 2: Acceptable Quality Control Ranges for Susceptibility Testing for Trimethoprim/Sulfamethoxazole

QC Strain Minimal Inhibitory Concentration (mcg/mL) Zone Diameter (mm)
Escherichia coli ATCC 25922 ≤ 0.5/9.5 23–29
Haemophilus influenzae ATCC 49247 0.03/0.59 – 0.25/4.75 24–32
Streptococcus pneumoniae ATCC 49619 0.12/2.4 – 1/19 20–28


1. Kremers P, Duvivier J, Heusghem C. Pharmacokinetic studies of co-trimoxazole in man after single and repeated doses. J Clin Pharmacol. 1974;14:112-117.

2. Kaplan SA, Weinfeld RE, Abruzzo CW, McFaden K, Jack ML, Weissman L. Pharmacokinetic profile of trimethoprim- sulfamethoxazole in man. J Infect Dis. 1973;128(suppl):S547-S555.

3. Varoqaux O, et al. Pharmacokinetics of the trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole combination in the elderly. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 1985; 20: 575-581.

4. Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI). Methods for Dilution Antimicrobial Susceptibility Tests for Bacteria that Grow Aerobically; Approved Standard - Ninth Edition. CLSI document M07-A9, Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute, 950 West Valley Road, Suite 2500, Wayne, Pennsylvania 19087, USA, 2012.

5. Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI). Performance Standards for Antimicrobial Susceptibility Testing; Twenty-third Informational Supplement, CLSI document M100-S23. CLSI document M100-S23, Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute, 950 West Valley Road, Suite 2500, Wayne, Pennsylvania 19087, USA, 2013.

6. Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI). Performance Standards for Antimicrobial Disk Diffusion Susceptibility Tests; Approved Standard – Eleventh Edition CLSI document M02-A11, Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute, 950 West Valley Road, Suite 2500, Wayne, Pennsylvania 19087, USA, 2012.

Last reviewed on RxList: 10/30/2013
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.

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