Intrathecal Antibacterial and Antifungal Therapies

Clin Microbiol Rev. 2020 Apr 29;33(3):e00190-19. doi: 10.1128/CMR.00190-19. Print 2020 Jun 17.


Intrathecal administration of anti-infectives is indicated in central nervous system infections by multiresistant pathogens when drugs that can reach adequate cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) concentrations by systemic therapy are not available. Antibiotics that readily pass the blood-brain and blood-CSF barriers and/or that have low toxicity allowing an increase in the daily dosage should not be used for intrathecal therapy. Intrathecal therapy is accompanied by systemic treatment. Antibacterials indispensable for intrathecal therapy include aminoglycosides, colistin, daptomycin, tigecycline, and vancomycin. Limited experience suggests the utility of the antifungals amphotericin B and caspofungin. Intraventricular administration ensures distribution throughout the CSF compartment, whereas intralumbar dosing often fails to attain adequate antibiotic concentrations in the ventricles. The individual dose is determined by the estimated size of the CSF space and by the estimated clearance from CSF. For moderately lipophilic anti-infectives with a molecular weight above approximately 1,000 g/mol, as well as for hydrophilic drugs with a molecular weight above approximately 400 g/mol, one daily dose is normally adequate. The ventricular drain should be clamped for 15 to 120 min to facilitate the distribution of the anti-infective in the CSF space. Therapeutic drug monitoring of the trough levels is necessary only in cases of therapeutic failure.

Keywords: antibiotics; antifungal agents; brain abscess; cerebrospinal fluid; intrathecal; intraventricular; meningitis; ventricular shunt; ventriculitis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antifungal Agents / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Antifungal Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Central Nervous System Bacterial Infections / drug therapy*
  • Central Nervous System Fungal Infections / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Injections, Spinal


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Antifungal Agents