Resistance in nonfermenting gram-negative bacteria: multidrug resistance to the maximum

Am J Infect Control. 2006 Jun;34(5 Suppl 1):S29-37; discussion S64-73. doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2006.05.226.


Nonfermenting gram-negative bacteria pose a particular difficulty for the healthcare community because they represent the problem of multidrug resistance to the maximum. Important members of the group in the United States include Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Acinetobacter baumannii, Stenotrophomonas maltophilia, and Burkholderia cepacia. These organisms are niche pathogens that primarily cause opportunistic healthcare-associated infections in patients who are critically ill or immunocompromised. Multidrug resistance is common and increasing among gram-negative nonfermenters, and a number of strains have now been identified that exhibit resistance to essentially all commonly used antibiotics, including antipseudomonal penicillins and cephalosporins, aminoglycosides, tetracyclines, fluoroquinolones, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, and carbapenems. Polymyxins are the remaining antibiotic drug class with fairly consistent activity against multidrug-resistant strains of P aeruginosa, Acinetobacter spp, and S maltophilia. However, most multidrug-resistant B cepacia are not susceptible to polymyxins, and systemic polymyxins carry the risk of nephrotoxicity for all patients treated with these agents, the elderly in particular. A variety of resistance mechanisms have been identified in P aeruginosa and other gram-negative nonfermenters, including enzyme production, overexpression of efflux pumps, porin deficiencies, and target-site alterations. Multiple resistance genes frequently coexist in the same organism. Multidrug resistance in gram-negative nonfermenters makes treatment of infections caused by these pathogens both difficult and expensive. Improved methods for susceptibility testing are needed when dealing with these organisms, including emerging strains expressing metallo-beta-lactamases. Improved antibiotic stewardship and infection-control measures will be needed to prevent or slow the emergence and spread of multidrug-resistant, nonfermenting gram-negative bacilli in the healthcare setting.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cross Infection / drug therapy*
  • Cross Infection / microbiology
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial / drug effects
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial / genetics
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial / physiology*
  • Gammaproteobacteria / drug effects*
  • Gram-Negative Aerobic Rods and Cocci / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests / methods
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / trends