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Wild-type distributions of minimum inhibitory concentrations and epidemiological cut-off values-laboratory and clinical utility.

The characterization of wild-type minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) and zone diameter distributions with the setting of epidemiological cut-off values (ECOFFs or ECVs) provides a reference for the otherwise relative MIC values in the international system for antimicrobial susceptibility testing. Distributions of MIC values for a species and an agent follow a log-normal distribution, which in the absence of resistance mechanisms is monomodal and designated wild type (WT). The upper end of the WT distribution, the ECOFF, can be identified with statistical methods. In the presence of phenotypically detectable resistance, the distribution has at least one more mode (the non-WT), but despite this, the WT is most often identifiable using the same methods. The ECOFF provides the most sensitive measure of resistance development in a species against an agent. The WT and non-WT modes are independent of the organism´s response to treatment, but when the European Committee on Antimicrobial Susceptibility Testing (EUCAST) determines the clinical breakpoints, the committee avoids breakpoints that split WT distributions of target species. This is to avoid the poorer reproducibility of susceptibility categorization when breakpoints split major populations but also because the EUCAST has failed to identify different clinical outcomes for isolates with different MIC values inside the wild-type distribution. In laboratory practice, the ECOFF is used to screen for and exclude resistance and allows the comparison of resistance between systems with different breakpoints from different breakpoint organizations, breakpoints evolving over time, and different breakpoints between human and animal medicine. The EUCAST actively encourages colleagues to question MIC distributions as presented on the website (https://www.eucast.org/mic_and_zone_distributions_and_ecoffs) and to contribute MIC and inhibition zone diameter data.

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