Does combination antimicrobial therapy reduce mortality in Gram-negative bacteraemia? A meta-analysis

Lancet Infect Dis. 2004 Aug;4(8):519-27. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(04)01108-9.


The use of combination antimicrobial therapy for bacteraemia caused by Gram-negative bacilli is controversial. We did a meta-analysis of published studies to determine whether a combination of two or more antimicrobials reduces mortality in patients with Gram-negative bacteraemia. Criteria for inclusion were: analytic studies of patients with documented Gram-negative bacteraemia that included patients receiving a single antibiotic (monotherapy) and patients receiving two or more antibiotics (combination therapy). Data on mortality (outcome) had to be provided. A pooled odds ratio was calculated with the random effects model of DerSimonian and Laird. Assessment of heterogeneity was done with the Breslow-Day test and reasons for heterogeneity were explored. 17 studies met the inclusion criteria, five prospective cohort studies, two prospective randomised trials, and ten retrospective cohort studies. Most studies used beta-lactams or aminoglycosides alone and in combination. The summary odds ratio was 0.96 (95% CI 0.70-1.32), indicating no mortality benefit with combination therapy. Subgroup analyses adjusting for year of publication, study design, and severity of illness did not change the results. Considerable heterogeneity was present in the main analyses. Analysis of only Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteraemias showed a significant mortality benefit (OR 0.50, 95% CI 0.30-0.79). Our analysis does not support the routine use of combination antimicrobial therapy for Gram-negative bacteraemia, beyond settings where infection by P aeruginosa is strongly suspected or more than one drug would be desirable to assure in-vitro efficacy.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Bacteremia / drug therapy*
  • Bacteremia / mortality*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination / therapeutic use
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria*
  • Gram-Negative Bacterial Infections / drug therapy*
  • Gram-Negative Bacterial Infections / mortality*
  • Humans
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents