Tetracycline is a broad-spectrum antibiotic. It is, ironically, derived from a chemical produced by a type of bacteria. It works by preventing the synthesis of proteins. Once it enters a bacterial cell, it cannot be excreted and increasingly restricts the bacteria from synthesizing proteins necessary for it's life. It is commonly used to treat acne, rosacea, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Q fever, psittacosis and cholera. It can also be used to prevent malaria.
Tetracycline is also used as a starting point to create other antibiotics, which are collectively known as the tetracycline antibiotics.
Tetracycline was first isolated from natural sources in 1948. However, there was some dispute about which company first came up with a pharmaceutically usable form of the drug, leading to patent litigation.
The drug has manageable side effects. However, as it discolors developing teeth, it is not recommended for children or pregnant women. It should not be taken together with dairy products, nutritional metallic supplements, or antacids, which inhibit its action. It also can cause skin to become sensitive to light.
Tetracycline can also be used to track bone growth as it binds to bone and can be detected in tests.