Antibiotic treatment of multidrug-resistant organisms in cystic fibrosis

Am J Respir Med. 2003;2(4):321-32. doi: 10.1007/BF03256660.


Respiratory tract infection with eventual respiratory failure is the major cause of morbidity and mortality in cystic fibrosis (CF). Infective exacerbations need to be treated promptly and effectively to minimize potentially accelerated attrition of lung function. The choice of antibiotic depends on in vitro sensitivity patterns. However, physicians treating patients with CF are increasingly faced with infection with multidrug-resistant isolates of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. In addition, innately resistant organisms such as Burkholderia cepacia complex, Stenotrophomonas maltophilia and Achromobacter (Alcaligenes) xylosoxidans are becoming more prevalent. Infection with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is also a problem. These changing patterns probably result from greater patient longevity and increased antibiotic use for acute exacerbations and maintenance care. Multidrug-resistant P. aeruginosa infection may be treated successfully by using two antibiotics with different mechanisms of action. In practice antibiotic choices have usually been made on a best-guess basis, but recent research suggests that more directed therapy can be achieved through the application of multiple-combination bactericidal testing (MCBT). Aerosol delivery of tobramycin for inhalation solution achieves high endobronchial concentrations that may overcome bacterial resistance as defined by standard laboratory protocols. Resistance to colistin is rare and this antibiotic should be seen as a valuable second-line drug to be reserved for multidrug-resistant P. aeruginosa. The efficacy of new antibiotic groups such as the macrolides needs to be evaluated.CF units should adopt strict segregation policies to interrupt person-to-person spread of B. cepacia complex. Treatment of panresistant strains is difficult and often arbitrary. Combination antibiotic therapy is recommended, usually tobramycin and high-dose meropenem and/or ceftazidime, but the choice of treatment regimen should always be guided by the clinical response.The clinical significance of S. maltophilia, A. xylosoxidans and MRSA infection in CF lung disease remains uncertain. If patients show clinical decline and are chronically colonized/infected with either of the former two pathogens, treatment is recommended but efficacy data are lacking. There are defined microbiological reasons for attempting eradication of MRSA but there are no proven deleterious effects of this infection on lung function in patients with CF. Various treatment protocols exist but none has been subject to a randomized, controlled trial. Multidrug-resistant microorganisms are an important and growing issue in the care of patients with CF. Each patient infected with such strains should be assessed individually and antibiotic treatment planned according to in vitro sensitivity, patient drug tolerance, and results of in vitro studies which may direct the physician to antibiotic combinations most likely to succeed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cystic Fibrosis / drug therapy*
  • Cystic Fibrosis / epidemiology
  • Cystic Fibrosis / microbiology
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination / pharmacology
  • Drug Therapy, Combination / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / drug therapy*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / epidemiology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / microbiology
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents