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Antibiotic-Associated Apoptotic Enterocolitis in the Absence of a Defined Pathogen: The Role of Intestinal Microbiota Depletion*

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Abstract

Objective:

Antibiotic therapy is a major risk factor for the development of diarrhea and colitis with varying severity. Often the origin of antibiotic-associated gastrointestinal deterioration remains elusive and no specific infectious agents could be discerned.

Patients:

We represent three cases of intractable high-volume diarrhea associated with combined antibiotic and steroid therapy in critically ill patients not fitting into established disease entities. Cases presented with severe apoptotic enterocolitis resembling acute intestinal graft-versus-host-disease. Microbiologic workup precluded known enteropathogens, but microbiota analysis revealed a severely depleted gut microbiota with concomitant opportunistic pathogen overgrowth.

Interventions:

Fecal microbiota transplantation, performed in one patient, was associated with correction of dysbiosis, rapid clinical improvement, and healing of enterocolitis.

Conclusions:

Our series represents a severe form of antibiotic-associated colitis in critically ill patients signified by microbiota depletion, and reestablishment of a physiologic gastrointestinal microbiota might be beneficial for this condition.

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