Bacitracin is a mixture of related cyclic polypeptides produced by organisms of the licheniformis group of Bacillus subtilis var Tracy, isolation of which was first reported in 1945. The drug's unique name derives from the fact that it was isolated from a girl named Tracy:
One strain isolated from tissue debrided from a compound fracture of the tibia was particularly active. We named this growth-antagonistic strain for the patient, "Tracy I." When cell-free filtrates of broth cultures of this bacillus proved to possess strong antibiotic activity and to be non-toxic, further study seemed warranted. We have called this active principle "Bacitracin.
As a toxic and difficult-to-use antibiotic, bacitracin doesn't work well orally. However, it is very effective topically. Its action is on gram positive cell walls.
As bacitracin zinc salt, and in combination with other topical antibiotics (usually polymyxin B and neomycin), it is used in ointment form for topical treatment of a variety of localized skin and eye infections, as well as for the prevention of wound infections. In the United States a popular brand name Neosporin contains Bacitracin as one of its antibiotic agents along with Neomycin and Polymyxin B. Bacitracin can also be bought in pure form for those with allergies.
It is also commonly used as an aftercare antibiotic on tattoos. It is preferred over Neosporin because of its fewer ingredients, which lowers chances of an allergic reaction.
Clinical Note: This is a good alternative to Silver sulfadiazine (Silvadene) for burn patients with Sulfa-Allergy.