Background: While quantification of viral loads has been successfully employed in clinical medicine and has provided valuable insights and useful markers for several viral diseases, the potential of measuring bacterial DNA load to predict outcome or monitor therapeutic responses remains largely unexplored. We tested this possibility by investigating bacterial loads in Acinetobacter baumannii bacteremia, a rapidly increasing nosocomial infection characterized by high mortality, drug resistance, multiple and complicated risk factors, all of which urged the need of good markers to evaluate therapeutics.
Methods and findings: We established a quantitative real-time PCR assay based on an A. baumannii-specific gene, Oxa-51, and conducted a prospective study to examine A. baumannii loads in 318 sequential blood samples from 51 adults patients (17 survivors, 34 nonsurvivors) with culture-proven A. baumannii bacteremia in the intensive care units. Oxa-51 DNA loads were significantly higher in the nonsurvivors than survivors on day 1, 2 and 3 (P=0.03, 0.001 and 0.006, respectively). Compared with survivors, nonsurvivors had higher maximum Oxa-51 DNA load and a trend of increase from day 0 to day 3 (P<0.001), which together with Pitt bacteremia score were independent predictors for mortality by multivariate analysis (P=0.014 and 0.016, for maximum Oxa-51 DNA and change of Oxa-51 DNA, respectively). Kaplan-Meier analysis revealed significantly different survival curves in patients with different maximum Oxa-51 DNA and change of Oxa-51 DNA from day 0 to day 3.
Conclusions: High Oxa-51 DNA load and its initial increase could predict mortality. Moreover, monitoring Oxa-51 DNA load in blood may provide direct parameters for evaluating new regimens against A. baumannii in future clinical studies.