Dosage and Route Administration of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy


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On this graph, t0 represents the time at which a drug dose is administered. The curves illustrate how plasma concentration of the drug changes over specific intervals of time (t1 through t4). As the graph shows, when a drug is administered intravenously, the concentration peaks very quickly and then gradually decreases. When drugs are administered orally or intramuscularly, it takes longer for the concentration to reach its peak.

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The amount of medication given during a certain time interval is the dosage, and it must be determined carefully to ensure that optimum therapeutic drug levels are achieved at the site of infection without causing significant toxicity (side effects) to the patient. Despite best efforts to optimize dosing, allergic reactions and other potentially serious side effects do occur. Therefore, the goal is to select the optimum dosage that will minimize the risk of side effects while still achieving clinical cure, and there are important factors to consider when selecting the best dose and dosage interval. For example, in children, dose is based upon the patient’s mass. However, the
same is not true for adults and children 12 years of age and older, for which there is typically a single standard dose regardless of the patient’s mass. With the great variability in adult body mass, some experts have argued that mass should be considered for all patients when determining appropriate dosage. An additional consideration is how
drugs are metabolized and eliminated from the body. In general, patients with a history of liver or kidney dysfunction may experience reduced drug metabolism or clearance from the body, resulting in increased drug levels that may lead to toxicity and make them more prone to side effects.

There are also some factors specific to the drugs themselves that influence appropriate dose and time interval between doses. For example, the half-life, or rate at which 50% of a drug is eliminated from the plasma, can vary significantly between drugs. Some drugs have a short half-life of only 1 hour and must be given multiple times a day, whereas other drugs have half-lives exceeding 12 hours and can be given as a single dose every 24 hours. Although a longer half-life can be considered an advantage for an antibacterial when it comes to convenient dosing intervals, the longer half-life can also be a concern for a drug that has serious side effects because drug levels may remain toxic for a longer time. Last, some drugs are dose dependent, meaning they are more effective when administered in large doses to provide high levels for a short time at the site of infection. Others are time dependent, meaning they are more effective when lower optimum levels are maintained over a longer period of time.

The route of administration, the method used to introduce a drug into the body, is also an important consideration for drug therapy. Drugs that can be administered orally are generally preferred because patients can more conveniently take these drugs at home. However, some drugs are not absorbed easily from the gastrointestinal (GI) tract into the
bloodstream. These drugs are often useful for treating diseases of the intestinal tract, such as tapeworms treated with niclosamide, or for decontaminating the bowel, as with colistin. Some drugs that are not absorbed easily, such as bacitracin, polymyxin, and several antifungals, are available as topical preparations for treatment of superficial
skin infections. Sometimes, patients may not initially be able to take oral medications because of their illness (e.g., vomiting, intubation for respirator). When this occurs, and when a chosen drug is not absorbed in the GI tract, administration of the drug by a parenteral route (intravenous or intramuscular injection) is preferred and typically
is performed in health-care settings. For most drugs, the plasma levels achieved by intravenous administration is substantially higher than levels achieved by oral or intramuscular administration, and this can also be an important
consideration when choosing the route of administration for treating an infection.


Parker, N., Schneegurt, M., Thi Tu, A.-H., Forster, B. M., & Lister, P. (n.d.). Microbiology. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: