The challenges of multi-drug-resistance in hepatology

Javier Fernández, Frédéric Bert, Marie-Hélène Nicolas-Chanoine
Journal of Hepatology 2016, 65 (5): 1043-1054
Antimicrobial resistance has become a major global public health security problem that needs coordinated approaches at regional, national and international levels. Antibiotic overuse and the failure of control measures to prevent the spread of resistant bacteria in the healthcare environment have led to an alarming increase in the number of infections caused by resistant bacteria, organisms that resist many (multi-drug and extensively drug-resistant strains), if not all (pan-drug-resistant bacteria) currently available antibiotics. While Gram-positive cocci resistance (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and vancomycin-resistant enterococci) shows a heterogeneous geographical distribution, extended-spectrum β-lactamase-producing Enterobacteriaceae and carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae have become pandemic worldwide and endemic in some parts of the world, respectively. Moreover, currently available therapeutic options for resistant bacteria are very limited, with very few new agents in development. Antimicrobial resistance is especially relevant in decompensated cirrhosis. Firstly, cirrhotic patients are highly susceptible to develop infections caused by resistant bacteria as risk factors of multiresistance concentrate in this population (mainly repeated hospitalizations and antibiotic exposure). Secondly, inappropriate empirical antibiotic schedules easily translate into increased morbidity (acute kidney injury, acute-on-chronic liver failure, septic shock) and hospital mortality in advanced cirrhosis. Therefore, hepatologists must face nowadays a complex clinical scenario that requires new empirical antibiotic strategies that may further spread resistance. Global, regional and local preventive measures should therefore be implemented to combat antimicrobial resistance in cirrhosis including the restriction of antibiotic prophylaxis to high-risk populations, investigation on non-antibiotic prophylaxis, stewardship programs on adequate antibiotic prescription and on increasing awareness of the problem among health professionals, and well-defined early de-escalation policies based on rapid microbiological diagnostic tests. Other infection control practices such as hand hygiene and barrier precautions are also important. Clinical impact and cost-effectiveness of epidemiological surveillance programs (periodic rectal and nasal swabs) should also be explored.

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