List the factors that result in failed resolution of sepsis despite antibiotic therapy.
Wrong antibiotic choice
Delayed administration of antibiotics
Inadequate source control
Inadequate antimicrobial blood levels
Inadequate penetration of the antimicrobial to the target site,
Antimicrobial neutralization or antagonism,
Superinfection or unsuspected secondary bacterial infection,
Non-infectious source of illness
The question is, "why aren't my antibiotics working?"
Several possibilities exist; this list is duplicated in the Required Reading section.
There is no infection.
- The febrile illness you are trying to manage is one of the non-infectious causes of fever.
The infection is not susceptible to antibiotics
- There is a viral cause of illness, without an accepted antiviral therapy.
- The infection is fungal, protozoal, parasitic, or algal (yes, by algae).
- The source of infection is subject to severe circulatory neglect (eg. an ischaemic toe) in which case surgical source control is the only way to manage it.
You are using the wrong antibiotics.
- The drug is plainly inappropriate for its application (eg. nitrofurantoin for pneumonia).
- The drug would normally be appropriate, but this organism happens to be resistant.
You are using the wrong route of administration.
- The oral drug may not be getting absorbed due to the sluggish gut of critical illness
- The IV drug is not effective in treating an infection in the gut lumen (eg. IV vancomycin instead of oral vancomycin for C.difficile infection
Your antibiotic dosing is inappropriate
- The dose is too small, and does not reach far enough over MIC
- The dosing interval is too long
- The administration was delayed (in septic shock, every hour counts)
- The course was too brief
- You have failed to adjust for increased clearance by dialysis
- You must by neccessity use a lower dose, or shorten the course, due to unacceptable toxicity (Garrod dryly remarks that "treatment may reasonably be said to have failed when a patient dies as a direct result of it").
Source control is inadequate
- The source is subject to surgical neglect
- The debridement was incomplete (more surgery is needed)
- The clearance of secretions in pneumonia is poor (more physiotherapy is needed)
Antibiotic penetration to the target site is poor
- The chosen antibiotic happens to penetrate that specific tissue poorly.
- The tissue in question has poor blood supply (the ischaemic toe again)
Antibiotic activity is being inhibited
- Acidic environments inhibit the activity of macrolides and aminoglycosides
- Lung surfactant inhibits daptomycin
Antibiotic antagonism has developed
- Classically, it is said that giving a bacteriostatic antibiotic together with a bactericidal one will result in antagonism, as the bacteriostatic drug prevents the bacteria from reproducing, and the bactericidal drug can only kill bacteria while they are trying to reproduce.
Antibiotics are working just fine, but the clinical state has deteriorated anyway
- For instance, you have destroyed the streptococci, but the streptococcal toxic shock syndrome has laid to waste your patient's organ systems, giving the overall impression of treatment failure.
Garrod, L. P. "Causes of failure in antibiotic treatment." BMJ 4.5838 (1972): 473-476.
Cargill, J. S. "Causes of failure in antibiotic treatment." BMJ 4.5843 (1972): 791-791.
Pollock, A. V. "Causes of failure in antibiotic treatment." BMJ 4.5843 (1972): 790-791.
García, Miguel Sánchez. "Early antibiotic treatment failure." International journal of antimicrobial agents 34 (2009): S14-S19.
Cunha, Burke A., and Antonio M. Ortega. "Antibiotic failure." The Medical clinics of North America 79.3 (1995): 663-672
Arancibia, Francisco, et al. "Antimicrobial treatment failures in patients with community-acquired pneumonia: causes and prognostic implications."American journal of respiratory and critical care medicine 162.1 (2000): 154-160.
Sanders, E., and P. F. Jurgensen. "Remediable causes of failure of" appropriate" antimicrobial therapy." Postgraduate medicine 50.5 (1971): 161. -Not available even as an abstract! Oh well, it was 1971.
Cox, G. Erika, J. D. Wilson, and Pamela Brown. "Protothecosis: a case of disseminated algal infection." The Lancet 304.7877 (1974): 379-382.