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Key messages for hospital prescribers

What is the problem?

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria have become an everyday occurrence and problem in hospitals across Europe (1).

Misuse of antibiotics may cause patients to become colonised or infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) and highly-resistant Gram-negative bacilli (2-3).

Misuse of antibiotics is associated with an increased incidence of Clostridium difficile infections (4-5).

The emergence, selection and spread of resistant bacteria is a threat to patient safety in hospitals because:

  • Infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria result in increased patient morbidity and mortality, as well as increased hospital length of stay (6-7).
  • Antibiotic resistance frequently leads to a delay in appropriate antibiotic therapy (8).
  • Inappropriate or delayed antibiotic therapy in patients with severe infections is associated with worse patient outcomes and sometimes death (9-11).
  • The current pipeline for new antibiotics is limited and, if antibiotic resistance continues to grow, there will be no effective antibiotics for treatment (12).


How does the use of antibiotics contribute to the problem? 

Patients who are hospitalized have a high probability of receiving an antibiotic (13) and 50% of all antibiotic use in hospitals can be inappropriate (4, 14);

Misuse of antibiotics in hospitals is one of the main factors that drive development of antibiotic resistance (15-17);

Misuse of antibiotics can include any of the following (18):

  • When antibiotics are prescribed unnecessarily;
  • When antibiotic administration is delayed in critically ill patients;
  • When the spectrum of antibiotic therapy is either too narrow or too broad;
  • When the dose of antibiotic is either too low or too high compared to what is indicated for that patient;
  • When the duration of antibiotic treatment is too short or too long;
  • When antibiotic treatment is not streamlined when microbiological culture data become available.


Why promote prudent use of antibiotics?

Prudent use of antibiotics can prevent the emergence and selection of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (4, 17, 19-21).

Decreasing antibiotic use has been shown to result in decreasing incidence of Clostridium difficile infections (4, 19, 22).


How to promote prudent use of antibiotics?

Multifaceted strategies which include use of ongoing education, use of evidence-based hospital antibiotic guidelines and policies, restrictive measures and consultations from infectious disease physicians, microbiologists and pharmacists, may result in better antibiotic prescribing practices and decreasing antibiotic resistance (4, 19, 23).

Monitoring of hospital antibiotic resistance and antibiotic use data has been shown to provide useful information to guide empirical antibiotic therapy in severely ill patients (24)

Correct timing and optimal duration of antibiotic prophylaxis for surgery is associated with a lower risk of surgical site infections (25) and lower risk of emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (26)

Studies show that, for some indications, shorter rather than longer duration of treatment can be administered without differences in patient outcome and this has also been associated with lower frequencies of antibiotic resistance (15, 27-28).

Taking microbiological samples before initiating empiric antibiotic therapy, monitoring culture results and streamlining antibiotic treatment based on culture results is a means to reduce unnecessary antibiotic use (29).


1.            European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System . RIVM. 2009 [cited March 30, 2010].
2.            Safdar N, Maki DG. The commonality of risk factors for nosocomial colonization and infection with antimicrobial-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, enterococcus, gram-negative bacilli, Clostridium difficile, and Candida. Ann Intern Med. 2002 Jun 4;136(11):834-44.
3.            Tacconelli E, De Angelis G, Cataldo MA, Mantengoli E, Spanu T, Pan A, et al. Antibiotic usage and risk of colonization and infection with antibiotic-resistant bacteria: a hospital population-based study. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2009 Oct;53(10):4264-9.
4.            Davey P, Brown E, Fenelon L, Finch R, Gould I, Hartman G, et al. Interventions to improve antibiotic prescribing practices for hospital inpatients. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005(4):CD003543.
5.            Bartlett JG, Onderdonk AB, Cisneros RL, Kasper DL. Clindamycin-associated colitis due to a toxin-producing species of Clostridium in hamsters. J Infect Dis. 1977 Nov;136(5):701-5.
6.            Cosgrove SE, Carmeli Y. The impact of antimicrobial resistance on health and economic outcomes. Clin Infect Dis. 2003 Jun 1;36(11):1433-7.
7.            Roberts RR, Hota B, Ahmad I, Scott RD, 2nd, Foster SD, Abbasi F, et al. Hospital and societal costs of antimicrobial-resistant infections in a Chicago teaching hospital: implications for antibiotic stewardship. Clin Infect Dis. 2009 Oct 15;49(8):1175-84.
8.            Kollef MH, Sherman G, Ward S, Fraser VJ. Inadequate antimicrobial treatment of infections: a risk factor for hospital mortality among critically ill patients. Chest. 1999 Feb;115(2):462-74.
9.            Ibrahim EH, Sherman G, Ward S, Fraser VJ, Kollef MH. The influence of inadequate antimicrobial treatment of bloodstream infections on patient outcomes in the ICU setting. Chest. 2000 Jul;118(1):146-55.
10.          Lodise TP, McKinnon PS, Swiderski L, Rybak MJ. Outcomes analysis of delayed antibiotic treatment for hospital-acquired Staphylococcus aureus bacteremia. Clin Infect Dis. 2003 Jun 1;36(11):1418-23.
11.          Alvarez-Lerma F. Modification of empiric antibiotic treatment in patients with pneumonia acquired in the intensive care unit. ICU-Acquired Pneumonia Study Group. Intensive Care Med. 1996 May;22(5):387-94.
12.          ECDC, EMEA. ECDC/EMEA Joint Technical Report: The bacterial challenge: time to react
13.          Ansari F, Erntell M, Goossens H, Davey P. The European surveillance of antimicrobial consumption (ESAC) point-prevalence survey of antibacterial use in 20 European hospitals in 2006. Clin Infect Dis. 2009 Nov 15;49(10):1496-504.
14.          Willemsen I, Groenhuijzen A, Bogaers D, Stuurman A, van Keulen P, Kluytmans J. Appropriateness of antimicrobial therapy measured by repeated prevalence surveys. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2007 Mar;51(3):864-7.
15.          Singh N, Yu VL. Rational empiric antibiotic prescription in the ICU. Chest. 2000 May;117(5):1496-9.
16.          Lesch CA, Itokazu GS, Danziger LH, Weinstein RA. Multi-hospital analysis of antimicrobial usage and resistance trends. Diagn Microbiol Infect Dis. 2001 Nov;41(3):149-54.
17.          Lepper PM, Grusa E, Reichl H, Hogel J, Trautmann M. Consumption of imipenem correlates with beta-lactam resistance in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2002 Sep;46(9):2920-5.
18.          Gyssens IC, van den Broek PJ, Kullberg BJ, Hekster Y, van der Meer JW. Optimizing antimicrobial therapy. A method for antimicrobial drug use evaluation. J Antimicrob Chemother. 1992 Nov;30(5):724-7.
19.          Carling P, Fung T, Killion A, Terrin N, Barza M. Favorable impact of a multidisciplinary antibiotic management program conducted during 7 years. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2003 Sep;24(9):699-706.
20.          Bradley SJ, Wilson AL, Allen MC, Sher HA, Goldstone AH, Scott GM. The control of hyperendemic glycopeptide-resistant Enterococcus spp. on a haematology unit by changing antibiotic usage. J Antimicrob Chemother. 1999 Feb;43(2):261-6.
21.          De Man P, Verhoeven BAN, Verbrugh HA, Vos MC, Van Den Anker JN. An antibiotic policy to prevent emergence of resistant bacilli. Lancet. 2000;355(9208):973-8.
22.          Fowler S, Webber A, Cooper BS, Phimister A, Price K, Carter Y, et al. Successful use of feedback to improve antibiotic prescribing and reduce Clostridium difficile infection: a controlled interrupted time series. J Antimicrob Chemother. 2007 May;59(5):990-5.
23.          Byl B, Clevenbergh P, Jacobs F, Struelens MJ, Zech F, Kentos A, et al. Impact of infectious diseases specialists and microbiological data on the appropriateness of antimicrobial therapy for bacteremia. Clin Infect Dis. 1999 Jul;29(1):60-6; discussion 7-8.
24.          Beardsley JR, Williamson JC, Johnson JW, Ohl CA, Karchmer TB, Bowton DL. Using local microbiologic data to develop institution-specific guidelines for the treatment of hospital-acquired pneumonia. Chest. 2006 Sep;130(3):787-93.
25.          Steinberg JP, Braun BI, Hellinger WC, Kusek L, Bozikis MR, Bush AJ, et al. Timing of antimicrobial prophylaxis and the risk of surgical site infections: results from the Trial to Reduce Antimicrobial Prophylaxis Errors. Ann Surg. 2009 Jul;250(1):10-6.
26.          Harbarth S, Samore MH, Lichtenberg D, Carmeli Y. Prolonged antibiotic prophylaxis after cardiovascular surgery and its effect on surgical site infections and antimicrobial resistance. Circulation. 2000 Jun 27;101(25):2916-21.
27.          Chastre J, Wolff M, Fagon JY, Chevret S, Thomas F, Wermert D, et al. Comparison of 8 vs 15 days of antibiotic therapy for ventilator-associated pneumonia in adults: a randomized trial. Jama. 2003 Nov 19;290(19):2588-98.
28.          Ibrahim EH, Ward S, Sherman G, Schaiff R, Fraser VJ, Kollef MH. Experience with a clinical guideline for the treatment of ventilator-associated pneumonia. Crit Care Med. 2001 Jun;29(6):1109-15.
29.          Rello J, Gallego M, Mariscal D, Sonora R, Valles J. The value of routine microbial investigation in ventilator-associated pneumonia. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1997 Jul;156(1):196-200.

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