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New Horiz. 1996 Aug;4(3):333-7.

A model of the transmission of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the intensive care unit.

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Department of Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA.


Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem, affecting microorganisms found both in hospitals and in the community. In most patients, resistant organisms arise by transmission of already resistant microorganisms from another person, rather than arising by mutation in the index patient. Antibiotic resistance genes are often borne on plasmids or transposons on which they may be spread rapidly to other organisms in the same species or in other species. Plasmids and transposons readily pick up genes for resistance to other antibiotics or nonantibiotic agents ("linked resistance"). Control of the spread of antibiotic resistance may require limitation of the usage of other agents with linked resistance as well as of the antibiotics of primary interest. A model is described for the analysis of the transmission of antibiotic-resistant enteric bacteria in the ICU. The model deals with the baseline level of antibiotic resistance in the "source" patient, the effect of antibiotics in augmenting the concentration of resistant organisms in that patient, the role of patient-to-patient contact, and factors which may influence the "colonizability" of the recipient patient. Possible measures to reduce the spread of antibiotic resistance are discussed. It is hoped that the model may serve to focus discussion on some key ingredients of the transmission cycle.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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