• We are sorry, but NCBI web applications do not support your browser and may not function properly. More information
Logo of nihpaAbout Author manuscriptsSubmit a manuscriptNIH Public Access; Author Manuscript; Accepted for publication in peer reviewed journal;
J Clin Epidemiol. Author manuscript; available in PMC Jul 23, 2008.
Published in final edited form as:
PMCID: PMC2481511

Case mortality in polymicrobial bloodstream infections

High mortality in polymicrobial bloodstream infections has been sporadically noted in the U.S. medical literature since the 1960s. Few studies provided comparative data, but those that did showed case mortality in polymicrobial infections roughly twice that in monomicrobial infections [13]. Authors reported that the percentage of bloodstream infections that was polymicrobial was increasing [2], that polymicrobial bloodstream infections were typically nosocomial [3], and that mortality was higher in nosocomial than community-acquired polymicrobial bloodstream infections [4]. The higher mortality in polymicrobial bloodstream infections was reported to be associated with inappropriate therapy [5,6], absence of fever [3,4], and a variety of microbiologic and clinical factors [7,8]. A spike of interest in the late 1980s seems to have prompted slightly improved reporting in the early and mid 1990s (see Fig. 1), but the topic itself almost disappeared from discussion, and interest has not yet revived. For instance, a report on nosocomial bloodstream infections in U.S. hospitals in 1995–2002 included data that suggests the case-mortality gap between polymicrobial and monomicrobial infections may have narrowed, relative to the studies cited above–partly through increased mortality in monomicrobial infections–but again the topic was not mentioned [9].

Fig. 1
Nine studies published in the 1990s included comparative case-mortality data on polymicrobial and monomicrobial bloodstream infections in HIV-negative patients in U.S. hospitals. The data are shown in left-to-right order [1523] from the lowest ...

In Norway, a comparison of hospital records from 1988–1989 to those from 1974–1979 found a doubling in the incidence of bloodstream infections, a shift in their microbiologic composition, “a marked increase” in polymicrobial episodes, and an association of polymicrobial bloodstream infection with nosocomial acquisition and higher mortality; mortality had dropped dramatically between the two periods, but by 60% more among monomicrobial than polymicrobial infections [10]. The comparative data available from Israel in the 1990s showed a case-mortality ratio nearly identical to that in the United States [11,12]. In Spain, an ICU case series reported a case mortality in polymicrobial bloodstream infections only one quarter that in monomicrobial bloodstream infections [13], although a model published in this journal, based on all bloodstream infections in another Spanish hospital in 1991–1997, found polymicrobial bacteremia a key predictor of mortality [14].

Whatever cause–effect relationships may be involved in this differential case mortality, and in the differences in differential case mortality, it seems certain that these critical questions could be addressed much more effectively now, by clinical epidemiologists exploiting technical and analytic advances. The time seems right for a revival of interest in polymicrobial bloodstream infections.


1. Hermans PE, Washington JA., 2nd Polymicrobial bacteremia. Ann Intern Med. 1970;73:387–92. [PubMed]
2. Kiani D, Quinn EL, Burch KH, Madhavan T, Saravolatz LD, Neblett TR. The increasing importance of polymicrobial bacteremia. JAMA. 1979;242:1044–77. [PubMed]
3. Weinstein MP, Reller LB, Murphy JR. Clinical importance of polymicrobial bacteremia. Diagn Microbiol Infect Dis. 1986;5:185–96. [PubMed]
4. Mackowiak PA, Browne RH, Southern PM, Jr, Smith JW. Polymicrobial sepsis: an analysis of 184 cases using log linear models. Am J Med Sci. 1980;280:73–80. [PubMed]
5. Roselle GA, Watanakunakorn C. Polymicrobial bacteremia. JAMA. 1979;242:2411–3. [PubMed]
6. Elting LS, Bodey GP, Fainstein V. Polymicrobial septicemia in the cancer patient. Medicine. 1986;65:218–25. [PubMed]
7. Reuben AG, Musher DM, Hamill RJ, Broucke I. Polymicrobial bacteremia: clinical and microbiologic patterns. Rev Infect Dis. 1989;11:161–83. [PubMed]
8. Cooper GS, Havlir DS, Shlaes DM, Salata RA. Polymicrobial bacteremia in the late 1980s: predictors of outcome and review of the literature. Medicine. 1990;69:114–23. [PubMed]
9. Wisplinghoff H, Bischoff T, Tallent SM, Seifert H, Wenzel RP, Edmond MB. Nosocomial bloodstream infections in U.S. hospitals: analysis of 24,179 cases from a prospective nationwide surveillance study. Clin Infect Dis. 2004;39:309–17. [PubMed]
10. Haug JB, Harthug S, Kalager T, Digranes A, Solberg CO. Bloodstream infections at a Norwegian university hospital, 1974–1979 and 1988–1989: changing etiology, clinical features, and outcome. Clin Infect Dis. 1994;19:246–56. [PubMed]
11. Ashkenazi S, Leibovici L, Samra Z, Konisberger H, Drucker M. Risk factors for mortality due to bacteremia and fungemia in childhood. Clin Inf Dis. 1992;14:949–51. [PubMed]
12. Siegman-Igra Y, Kulka T, Schwartz D, Konforti N. Polymicrobial and monomicrobial bacteraemic urinary tract infection. J Hosp Infect. 1994;28:49–56. [PubMed]
13. Rello J, Quintana E, Mirelia B, Gurgui M, Net A, Prats G. Polymicrobial bacteremia in critically ill patients. Intensive Care Med. 1993;19:22–5. [PubMed]
14. Vales EC, Abraira V, Sanchez JC, Garcia MP, Feijoo AR, Alvarez MJ, Otero JV, Nieto AC, Rey RR, Veloso MT. A predictive model for mortality of bloodstream infections. Bedside analysis with the Weibull function. J Clin Epidemiol. 2002;55:563–72. [PubMed]
15. Pittet D, Li N, Woolson RF, Wenzel RP. Microbiological factors influencing the outcome of nosocomial bloodstream infections: a 6-year validated, population-based model. Clin Inf Dis. 1997;24:1068–78. [PubMed]
16. Kostman JR, Sherry BL, Fligner CL, Egaas S, Sheeran P, Baken L, Bauwens JE, Clausen C, Sherer DM, Plorde JJ, Stull TL, Mendelman PM. Invasive Haemophilus influenzae infections in older children and adults in Seattle. Clin Inf Dis. 1993;17:389–96. [PubMed]
17. Watanakunakorn C, Perni SC. Proteus mirabilis bacteremia: a review of 176 cases during 1980–1992. Scand J Inf Dis. 1994;26:361–7. [PubMed]
18. Tilley PAG, Roberts FJ. Bacteremia with Acinetobacter species: risk factors and prognosis in different clinical settings. Clin Inf Dis. 1994;18:896–900. [PubMed]
19. McNeeley DF, Saint-Louis F, Noel GJ. Neonatal enterococcal bacteremia: an increasingly frequent event with potentially untreatable pathogens. Pediatr Infect Dis. 1996;15:800–5. [PubMed]
20. Christie C, Hammond J, Reising S, Evans-Patterson J. Clinical and molecular epidemiology of enterococcal bacteremia in a pediatric teaching hospital. J Pediatr. 1994;125:392–9. [PubMed]
21. Bodey GP, Rodriguez S, Fainstein V, Elting LS. Clostridial bacteremia in cancer patients. Cancer. 1991;67:1928–42. [PubMed]
22. Watanakunakorn C, Pantelakis J. Alpha-hemolytic streptococcal bacteremia: a review of 203 episodes during 1980–1991. Scand J Inf Dis. 1993;25:403–8. [PubMed]
23. Still JM, Jr, Belcher K, Law EJ. Experience with polymicrobial sepsis in a regional burn unit. Burns. 1993;19:434–6. [PubMed]
PubReader format: click here to try


Related citations in PubMed

See reviews...See all...

Cited by other articles in PMC

See all...


Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...