- Antibiotics are designed to support host defense in controlling infection. Here we describe a paradoxical inhibitory effect of bacteriostatic antibiotics on key mediators of mammalian innate immunity. When growth of species including Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus is suppressed by chloramphenicol or erythromycin, the susceptibility of the bacteria to cathelicidin antimicrobial peptides or serum complement was markedly diminished. Survival of the bacteria in human whole blood, human wound fluid, or a mouse wound infection model was in turn increased after antibiotic-induced bacteriostasis. These findings provide a further rationale against the indiscriminate use of antibiotics.—Kristian, S. A., Timmer, A. M., Liu, G. Y., Lauth, X., Sal-Man, N., Rosenfeld, Y., Shai, Y., Gallo, R. L., Nizet, V. Impairment of innate immune killing mechanisms by bacteriostatic antibiotics.