Patients in intensive-care units (ICUs) may have better outcomes if preventative antibiotics are used to remove potentially harmful bacteria from the mouth, stomach and gut.
This selective decontamination of the digestive tract (SDD) reduces the risk of respiratory-tract infection for ICU patients who require mechanical ventilation. SDD has been used for 2 decades, however its effect on infection with antibiotic-resistant bacteria and death is not clear.
In a this study, Dr Evert de Jonge from Amsterdam's Academic Medical Center, Netherlands, and colleagues randomized 934 ICU patients to receive either SDD, or standard treatment (controls).
There were fewer deaths in ICUs (15%) and fewer overall hospital deaths (24%) among SDD patients, compared with the controls (23% and 31%, respectively).
|Use will depend on the risk of resistant organisms in a given environment.|
Infection with antibiotic-resistant bacteria in ICUs was also lower among SDD patients (16%) than patients given standard treatment (26%).
Evert de Jonge comments, "We conclude that SDD may improve survival of ICU patients and lowers the acquisition of resistant gram-negative aerobic bacteria".
"In ICUs that have low prevalence of vancomycin-resistant enterococcus and meticillin-resistant S. aureus, we advocate the use of SDD in all patients expected to be on mechanical ventilation for at least 2 days or to be in the ICU for at least 3 days".
In an accompanying commentary, Dr Jean-Louis Vincent from the Free University of Brussels, Belgium, concludes, "So should SDD be applied routinely in all ICUs?"
"To the question does SDD work, the answer now must definitely be yes - SDD reduces mortality".
"But, do the data apply to all environments?"
"Despite the results in de Jonge's study from the Netherlands, the risks of bacterial resistance remain".
"Whether to use SDD or not will depend on the risk of resistant organisms in a given environment, and the population of patients".
"So, in ICUs in an area with a high incidence of vancomycin-resistant enterococci or meticillin- resistant S. aureus, SDD may not be appropriate, and in general, surgical and trauma patients will benefit more than medical patients who enter the ICU already colonized".
"Whatever individual units decide, regular surveillance samples must be taken to monitor the long-term effects of this intervention".