Gray syndrome

Alternative Names

Chloramphenicol toxicity in newborns

Definition of Gray syndrome

Gray syndrome is a dangerous condition that occurs in newborns (especially premature babies) who are given the drug chloramphenicol.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Chloramphenicol is a drug used to fight bacterial infections, including meningitis. If given to a newborn, however, high doses of this drug can trigger a potentially deadly poisonous reaction.


Symptoms usually begin 2 to 9 days after treatment has been started. They include:


Overdoses can be treated with an exchange transfusion, which involves removing portions (aliquots) of the baby’s blood and replacing it with donated blood.


David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc., and Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. – 12/7/2009

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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