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Microbiological surveillance and antimicrobial stewardship minimise the need for ultrabroad-spectrum combination therapy for treatment of nosocomial infections in a trauma intensive care unit: An audit of an evidence-based empiric antimicrobial policy

Y Ramsamy
DJJ Muckart


Background. Nosocomial infections are a major cause of morbidity in the critically injured, and the incidence of resistant strains of bacteria is increasing. Management requires a strategy that achieves accurate empiric cover without antibiotic overuse - a goal that may be achieved by surveillance and antibiotic stewardship.
Objectives. With the aim of minimising the use of empirical ultrabroad-spectrum combination antimicrobial prescriptions and reducing bacterial resistance, the level I Trauma Intensive Care Unit (TICU) at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital (IALCH) in Durban employs stewardship and an antimicrobial policy based on surveillance. This study was undertaken with three aims: (i) to describe the spectrum and sensitivities of nosocomial pathogens in a level I TICU; (ii) to ascertain, based on surveillance data, how frequently initial empiric choice of antimicrobials was correct; and (iii) to determine how frequently ultrabroad-spectrum antimicrobials were prescribed and were actually necessary.
Methods. Over a 12-month period, all critically injured patients who  underwent mechanical ventilation in the TICU were identified from a prospectively gathered database. Information regarding every specimen submitted to the National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS) situated at IALCH was extracted from the laboratory computer database. For each patient, bacterial isolates and antimicrobial susceptibility were identified using standard laboratory techniques. Empiric prescriptions for presumed nosocomial sepsis were identified from the hospital’s computerised patient record system and compared with culture results. Acinetobacter species were regarded as colonisers and treatment not offered unless this was the sole isolate in the presence of signs of severe sepsis.
Results. Of 227 patients, 106 (46.6%) had 136 culture-positive isolates with a total of 323 pathogens (201 Gram-negative, 119 Grampositive,
3 Candida albicans). There were 19 species of Gram-negative pathogens, of which 56% comprised Enterobacteriaceae. Extended spectrum  beta-lactamase (ESBL) production was found in 6/31 (19%) Escherichia coli coli and 6/24 (25%) Klebsiella isolates. Staphyloccocal species accounted for 60% of the Gram-positive isolates, of which 18 were methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). All Candida isolates were sensitive to fluconazole. One hundred and one empiric and 14 directed prescriptions were issued. Despite positive cultures, antimicrobials were not prescribed for 21 patients who had no evidence of sepsis. Excluding multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter isolates, there were 87 (93.5%) appropriate and 6 (6.5%) incorrect prescriptions. Ultrabroad-spectrum combination therapy (U-bSCT) was employed for 11 patients but was necessary in only 2.
Conclusions. When combined with regular bacterial surveillance,  antimicrobial stewardship allows accurate empiric antimicrobial prescription with minimal need for ultrabroad-spectrum combination therapy. This policy can potentially reduce the emergence of multidrug-resistant  pathogens, precluding the need for broad-spectrum antimicrobials and the attendant problems of overuse.