PloS one

The ecology of antibiotic use in the ICU: homogeneous prescribing of cefepime but not tazocin selects for antibiotic resistant infection.

PMID 22761698


Antibiotic homogeneity is thought to drive resistance but in vivo data are lacking. In this study, we determined the impact of antibiotic homogeneity per se, and of cefepime versus antipseudomonal penicillin/β-lactamase inhibitor combinations (APP-β), on the likelihood of infection or colonisation with antibiotic resistant bacteria and/or two commonly resistant nosocomial pathogens (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa). A secondary question was whether antibiotic cycling was associated with adverse outcomes including mortality, length of stay, and antibiotic resistance. We evaluated clinical and microbiological outcomes in two similar metropolitan ICUs, which both alternated cefepime with APP-β in four-month cycles. All microbiological isolates and commensal samples were analysed for the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria including MRSA and P. aeruginosa. Length of stay, mortality and overall antibiotic resistance were unchanged after sixteen months. However, increased colonisation and infection by antibiotic-resistant bacteria were observed in cefepime cycles, returning to baseline in APP-β cycles. Cefepime was the strongest risk factor for acquisition of antibiotic-resistant infection. Ecological effects of different β-lactam antibiotics may be more important than specific activity against the causative agents or the effect of antibiotic homogeneity in selection for antibiotic resistance. This has important implications for antibiotic policy.