When are Oral Antibiotics a Safe and Effective Choice for Bacterial Bloodstream Infections? An Evidence-Based Narrative Review

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Abstract

Bacterial bloodstream infections (BSIs) are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States. Traditionally, BSIs have been managed with intravenous antimicrobials. However, whether intravenous antimicrobials are necessary for the entirety of the treatment course in BSIs, especially for uncomplicated episodes, is a more controversial matter. Patients that are clinically stable, without signs of shock, or have been stabilized after an initial septic presentation, may be appropriate candidates for treatment of BSIs with oral antimicrobials. There are risks and costs associated with extended courses of intravenous agents, such as the necessity for long-term intravenous catheters, which entail risks for procedural complications, secondary infections, and thrombosis. Oral antimicrobial therapy for bacterial BSIs offers several potential benefits. When selected appropriately, oral antibiotics offer lower cost, fewer side effects, promote antimicrobial stewardship, and are easier for patients. The decision to use oral versus intravenous antibiotics must consider the characteristics of the pathogen, the patient, and the drug. In this narrative review, the authors highlight areas where oral therapy is a safe and effective choice to treat bloodstream infection, and offer guidance and cautions to clinicians managing patients experiencing BSI.

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