A retrospective analysis of biofilm antibiotic susceptibility testing: a better predictor of clinical response in cystic fibrosis exacerbations

Tara Keays, Wendy Ferris, Katherine L Vandemheen, Francis Chan, Sau-Wai Yeung, Thien-Fah Mah, Karam Ramotar, Raphael Saginur, Shawn D Aaron
Journal of Cystic Fibrosis: Official Journal of the European Cystic Fibrosis Society 2009, 8 (2): 122-7

BACKGROUND: Bacteria grow as biofilms within CF airways. However, antibiotic susceptibility testing is routinely performed on planktonically-growing bacteria. This study assessed whether CF patients infected with multiresistant organisms had improved clinical outcomes if given antibiotics that inhibited their biofilm-grown bacteria.

METHODS: 110 patients with pulmonary exacerbations were treated with intravenous antibiotics based on susceptibility testing of planktonically-growing bacteria. A retrospective analysis was done using bacterial isolates grown from their sputum at exacerbation. Each isolate was grown as a biofilm and combination antibiotic susceptibility testing was performed. Clinical outcomes in patients treated with biofilm-susceptible antibiotics were compared to those that were not.

RESULTS: 66 of 110 patients (60%) were treated with antibiotic combinations that inhibited all of their planktonically-grown bacterial isolates, however, when the same isolates were grown as biofilms, only 24 patients (22%) had all of their biofilm-grown isolates remaining susceptible to the antibiotics (P=<0.001 ). When patients with at least one biofilm-grown susceptible isolate (n=61) were compared to those with none (n=49), there was a significant decrease in sputum bacterial density (P=0.02) and length of stay (P=0.04) and a non-significant decrease in treatment failure. Survival analyses of time to next exacerbation showed non-significant trends favoring patients treated with biofilm-effective antibiotics.

CONCLUSIONS: Most patients with CF exacerbations do not receive antibiotics that inhibit all biofilm-grown bacteria from their sputum at exacerbation. Patients treated with biofilm-effective therapy seemed to have improved clinical outcomes.

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