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Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2012 Jun;21(6):767-72. doi: 10.1517/13543784.2012.681642. Epub 2012 Apr 25.

Antibiotic prophylaxis in the era of multidrug-resistant bacteria.

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University Medical Centre Utrecht/Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


The prophylactic use of antibiotics can only be justified when clinical benefits on relevant patient outcomes, such as morbidity or mortality, cost-effectiveness, and absence of immediate emergence of antibiotic resistance have been unequivocally demonstrated. In some intensive care unit (ICU) patients, antibiotic prophylaxis is used as part of selective digestive tract decontamination (SDD) and selective oropharyngeal decontamination (SOD). Recent trials in ICUs with low levels of antibiotic resistance strongly suggest that both regimens reduce the incidence of ICU-acquired infections and improve patient survival. Naturally, the unique microbial ecology of such settings reduce generalizability of results. Therefore, the routine use of SOD and SDD remains highly controversial, especially in ICUs with higher levels of antibiotic resistance. Moreover, convincing evidence is still missing on several important aspects related to efficacy and safety. Despite numerous trials, effects of SDD and SOD on antibiotic resistance during and after decolonization treatment have still been insufficiently investigated, and existing results are contradicting. Furthermore, the effects of both regimens on the non-culturable part of the intestinal flora remain unknown. Finally, cost-effectiveness has not been thoroughly investigated, and prices of the antimicrobial agents that have been used have increased dramatically in recent years. In this review, important knowledge gaps that so far prevent the widespread use of SDD and SOD will be addressed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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