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

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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.


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.


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


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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