Nosocomial pneumonia: aetiology, diagnosis and treatment

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Purpose of review

This review highlights recent advances in the aetiology of nosocomial pneumonia, and in strategies to increase accuracy of diagnosis and antibiotic prescription while limiting unnecessary antibiotic consumption.

Recent findings

Bacterial pathogens still cause the bulk of nosocomial pneumonia and are of concern because of ever-rising antimicrobial resistance. Yet, the pathogenic role of fungal and viral organisms is increasingly recognized. Since early appropriate antimicrobial therapy is the cornerstone of an effective treatment, further studies have been conducted to improve appropriateness of early antibiotic therapy. De-escalation strategies combine initial broad-spectrum antibiotics to maximize early antibiotic coverage with a subsequent focusing of the antibiotic spectrum when the cause is identified. Invasive techniques probably do not alter the immediate outcome but have the potential to reduce unnecessary antibiotic exposure. Decisions to stop or change antibiotic therapy are hampered due to a lack of reliable parameters to assess the resolution of pneumonia.


Increasing antimicrobial resistance in nosocomial pneumonia both challenges treatment and mandates limitation of selection pressure by reducing antibiotic burden. Treating physicians should be both aggressive in initiating antimicrobials when suspecting nosocomial pneumonia but willing to discontinue antimicrobials when diagnostic results point to an alternative diagnosis. Efforts should be made to limit duration of antibiotic therapy when possible.

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