Annals of Intensive Care 2015, 5:21 (12 August 2015)
The burden of multidrug resistance in Gram-negative bacilli (GNB) now represents a daily issue for the management of antimicrobial therapy in intensive care unit (ICU) patients. In Enterobacteriaceae, the dramatic increase in the rates of resistance to third-generation cephalosporins mainly results from the spread of plasmid-borne extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL), especially those belonging to the CTX-M family.
The efficacy of beta-lactam/beta-lactamase inhibitor associations for severe infections due to ESBL-producing Enterobacteriaceae has not been adequately evaluated in critically ill patients, and carbapenems still stands as the first-line choice in this situation. However, carbapenemase-producing strains have emerged worldwide over the past decade. VIM- and NDM-type metallo-beta-lactamases, OXA-48 and KPC appear as the most successful enzymes and may threaten the efficacy of carbapenems in the near future. ESBL- and carbapenemase-encoding plasmids frequently bear resistance determinants for other antimicrobial classes, including aminoglycosides (aminoglycoside-modifying enzymes or 16S rRNA methylases) and fluoroquinolones (Qnr, AAC(6′)-Ib-cr or efflux pumps), a key feature that fosters the spread of multidrug resistance in Enterobacteriaceae. In non-fermenting GNB such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Acinetobacter baumannii and Stenotrophomonas maltophilia, multidrug resistance may emerge following the sole occurrence of sequential chromosomal mutations, which may lead to the overproduction of intrinsic beta-lactamases, hyper-expression of efflux pumps, target modifications and permeability alterations. P. aeruginosa and A. baumannii also have the ability to acquire mobile genetic elements encoding resistance determinants, including carbapenemases. Available options for the treatment of ICU-acquired infections due to carbapenem-resistant GNB are currently scarce, and recent reports emphasizing the spread of colistin resistance in environments with high volume of polymyxins use elicit major concern.