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Clin Microbiol Rev. 1990 Apr;3(2):171-96.

Pneumococcal resistance to antibiotics.

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Laboratory of Bacteriology and Immunology, Rockefeller University, New York, New York 10021.


The geographic distribution of pneumococci resistant to one or more of the antibiotics penicillin, erythromycin, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, and tetracycline appears to be expanding, and there exist foci of resistance to chloramphenicol and rifampin. Multiply resistant pneumococci are being encountered more commonly and are more often community acquired. Factors associated with infection caused by resistant pneumococci include young age, duration of hospitalization, infection with a pneumococcus of serogroup 6, 19, or 23 or serotype 14, and exposure to antibiotics to which the strain is resistant. At present, the most useful drugs for the management of resistant pneumococcal infections are cefotaxime, ceftriaxone, vancomycin, and rifampin. If the strains are susceptible, chloramphenicol may be useful as an alternative, less expensive agent. Appropriate interventions for the control of resistant pneumococcal outbreaks include investigation of the prevalence of resistant strains, isolation of patients, possible treatment of carriers, and reduction of usage of antibiotics to which the strain is resistant. The molecular mechanisms of penicillin resistance are related to the structure and function of penicillin-binding proteins, and the mechanisms of resistance to other agents involved in multiple resistance are being elucidated. Recognition is increasing of the standard screening procedure for penicillin resistance, using a 1-microgram oxacillin disk.

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