Background: The emergence of multidrug-resistant, extensively resistant and pan-resistant pathogens and the widespread inappropriate use of antibiotics is a global catastrophe receiving increasing attention by health care authorities. The antibiotic prescription practices in public and private intensive care units (ICUs) in South Africa are unknown.
Objective: To document antibiotic prescription practices in public and private ICUs in South Africa and to determine their relationship to patient outcomes.
Methods: A national database of public and private ICUs in South Africa was prospectively studied using a proportional probability sampling technique.
Results: Two hundred and forty-eight patients were recruited. Therapeutic antibiotics were initiated in 182 (73.5%), and 54.9% received an inappropriate antibiotic initially. De-escalation was practised in 33.3% and 19.7% of the public and private sector patients, respectively. Antibiotic duration was inappropriate in most cases. An appropriate choice of antibiotic was associated with an 11% mortality, while an inappropriate choice was associated with a 27% mortality (p=0.01). The mortality associated with appropriate or inappropriate duration of antibiotics was 17.6% and 20.6%, respectively (p=0.42).
Conclusion: Inappropriate antibiotic prescription practices in ICUs in the public and private sectors in South Africa are common and are also associated with poor patient outcomes.