Antimicrobial Resistance in the Intensive Care Unit: A Focus on Gram-Negative Bacterial Infections

J Intensive Care Med. 2017 Jan;32(1):25-37. doi: 10.1177/0885066615619895. Epub 2016 Jan 15.


Bacterial infections are a frequent cause of hospitalization, and nosocomial infections are an increasingly common condition, particularly within the acute/critical care setting. Infection control practices and new antimicrobial development have primarily focused on gram-positive bacteria; however, in recent years, the incidence of infections caused by gram-negative bacteria has risen considerably in intensive care units. Infections caused by multidrug-resistant (MDR) gram-negative organisms are associated with high morbidity and mortality, with significant direct and indirect costs resulting from prolonged hospitalizations due to antibiotic treatment failures. Of particular concern is the increasing prevalence of antimicrobial resistance to β-lactam antibiotics (including carbapenems) among Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Acinetobacter baumannii and, recently, among pathogens of the Enterobacteriaceae family. Treatment options for infections caused by these pathogens are limited. Antimicrobial stewardship programs focus on optimizing the appropriate use of currently available antimicrobial agents with the goals of improving outcomes for patients with infections caused by MDR gram-negative organisms, slowing the progression of antimicrobial resistance, and reducing hospital costs. Newly approved treatment options are available, such as β-lactam/β-lactamase inhibitor combinations, which significantly extend the armamentarium against MDR gram-negative bacteria.

Keywords: cost-effectiveness; critical care; gram-negative infections; intensive care; multidrug-resistant bacteria; outcomes; β-lactamase inhibitor.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cross Infection / microbiology
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial / drug effects*
  • Gram-Negative Bacterial Infections / drug therapy*
  • Gram-Negative Bacterial Infections / epidemiology
  • Gram-Negative Bacterial Infections / microbiology*
  • Gram-Negative Bacterial Infections / prevention & control
  • Guideline Adherence
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Intensive Care Units*
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • United States / epidemiology
  • beta-Lactamase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • beta-Lactamase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • beta-Lactamase Inhibitors