The Role of Systemic Antibiotics in Acquiring Respiratory Tract Colonization With Gram-Negative Bacteria in Intensive Care Patients: A Nested Cohort Study*

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Colonization of the respiratory tract with Gram-negative bacteria in intensive care patients increases the risk of subsequent infections. Application of systemic antibiotics may prevent colonization with Gram-negative bacteria, but this effect has never been quantified. The objective of this study was to determine associations between systemic antibiotic use and acquisition of respiratory tract colonization with Gram-negative bacteria in ICUs.


A nested cohort study.


A university hospital and a teaching hospital.


Patients with ICU stay of more than 48 hours and absence of respiratory tract colonization with Gram-negative bacteria on ICU admission.



Measurements and Main Results:

Acquisition was determined through protocolized surveillance. Associations were investigated with Cox regression models with antibiotics as a time-dependent covariate. In all, 250 of 481 patients (52%) acquired respiratory tract colonization with Gram-negative bacteria after a median of 5 days (interquartile range, 3–8 d) (acquisition rate, 77.1/1,000 patient-days at risk). Antibiotic exposure during ICU admission was present in 78% and 72% of the patients with and without acquired Gram-negative bacteria colonization, respectively. In Kaplan-Meier curve analysis, the median times to acquisition of Gram-negative bacteria were 9 days (95% CI, 7.9–10.1) and 6 days (95% CI, 4.8–7.2) in patients receiving and not receiving antibiotics, respectively. In time varying Cox regression analysis, however, the association between acquired colonization and systemic antibiotics was not statistically significant (hazard ratio, 0.90; 95% CI, 0.70–1.16).


Among patients not colonized with Gram-negative bacteria in the respiratory tract at admission to ICU, systemic antibiotics during ICU stay were not associated with a reduction in acquisition of Gram-negative bacteria carriage in the respiratory tract during the ICU stay.

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