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Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2013 Nov;42(5):384-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ijantimicag.2013.07.012. Epub 2013 Aug 27.

Ampicillin/sulbactam: its potential use in treating infections in critically ill patients.

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Burns, Trauma and Critical Care Research Centre, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia; University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. Electronic address:


The purpose of this paper was to review the potential utility of ampicillin/sulbactam (SAM) as a therapy for serious infections in critically ill patients. Data for this review were identified by searches of PubMed and of the reference lists of the included articles. We found that SAM appears to have a number of characteristics that support its use in the treatment of serious infections in critically ill patients. SAM demonstrates extensive penetration into many infection sites, supporting its use in a wide range of infection types. Microbiologically, sulbactam has strong intrinsic antibiotic activity against multidrug-resistant (MDR) bacteria, including Acinetobacter baumannii, which supports its use for the treatment of infections mediated by this pathogen. Of some concern, there have been reports showing a decline in susceptibility of some bacteria to SAM. As such, use of lower doses (4/2g/day), particularly for MDR A. baumannii, has been linked with a 30% reduced success rate in critically ill patients. The therapeutic challenges for ensuring achievement of optimal dosing of SAM result partly from bacterial susceptibility but also from the pharmacokinetic (PK) alterations common to β-lactam agents in critical illness. These PK changes are likely to reduce the ability of standard dosing to achieve the concentrations observed in non-critically ill patients. Optimisation of therapy may be more likely with the use of higher doses, administration by 4h infusion or by combination therapy, particularly for the treatment of infections caused by MDR pathogens.


Ampicillin/sulbactam; Critically ill; Multidrug-resistant; Pharmacodynamics; Pharmacokinetics

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