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Clin Microbiol Infect. 2003 Feb;9(2):120-32.

A new method for normalized interpretation of antimicrobial resistance from disk test results for comparative purposes.

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Department of Microbiology and Tumor Biology, Karolinska Institute, Karolinska Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden.



To evaluate a calibration method for disk diffusion antibiotic susceptibility tests, using zone diameter values generated in the individual laboratory as the internal calibrator for combinations of antibiotic and bacterial species.


The high-zone side of zone histogram distributions was first analyzed by moving averages to determine the peak position of the susceptible population. The accumulated percentages of isolates for the high zone diameter values were calculated and converted into probit values. The normal distribution of the ideal population of susceptible strains was then determined by using the least-squares method for probit values against zone diameters, and the ideal population was thereby defined, including mean and standard deviation. Zone diameter values were obtained from laboratories at the Karolinska Hospital (KS) and Växjö Hospital (VX), and from two laboratories (LabA, LabB) in Argentina. The method relies on well standardized disk tests, but is independent of differences in MIC limits and zone breakpoints, and does not require the use of reference strains. Resistance was tentatively set at below 3 SD from the calculated, ideal mean zone diameter of the susceptible population.


The method, called normalized interpretation of antimicrobial resistance, was tested on results from the KS and VX clinical microbiology laboratories, using the disk diffusion method for antimicrobial susceptibility tests, and for two bacterial species, Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. In total, 114 217 test results were included for the clinical isolates, and 3582 test results for control strains. The methodology at KS and VX followed the standard of the Swedish Reference Group for Antibiotics (SRGA). Zone diameter histograms for control strains were first analyzed to validate the procedure, and a comparison of actual means with the calculated means showed a correlation coefficient of r = 0.998. Results for clinical isolates at the two laboratories showed an excellent agreement for 54 of 57 combinations of antibiotic and bacterial species between normalized interpretations and the interpretations given by the laboratories. There were difficulties with E. coli and mecillinam, and S. aureus and tetracycline and rifampicin. The method was also tested on results from two laboratories using the NCCLS standard, and preliminary results showed very good agreement with quality-controlled laboratory interpretations.


The normalized resistance interpretation offers a new approach to comparative surveillance studies whereby the inhibition zone diameter results from disk tests in clinical laboratories can be used for calibration of the test.

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