Time to First Culture Positivity for Gram-Negative Rods Resistant to Ceftriaxone in Critically Ill Adults

J Intensive Care Med. 2021 Jan;36(1):51-57. doi: 10.1177/0885066620963903. Epub 2020 Oct 5.


Background: The optimal timing for the de-escalation of broad-spectrum antibiotics with activity against Pseudomonas aeruginosa and resistant Gram-negative rods (GNRs) in critically ill adults remains unknown.

Research question: We tested the hypothesis that cultures will identify GNRs that ultimately demonstrate resistance to ceftriaxone within 48 hours, potentially allowing safe de-escalation at this time point.

Study design and methods: We conducted a secondary analysis of data from the Isotonic Solutions and Major Adverse Renal Events Trial: a pragmatic, cluster-randomized, multiple-crossover trial comparing balanced crystalloids versus saline for intravenous fluid administration in 15,802 critically ill adults at 5 intensive care units (ICUs) at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN, USA. The primary endpoint was the time-to-positivity of respiratory and blood cultures that ultimately demonstrated growth of GNRs resistant to ceftriaxone. Multivariable logistic regression modeling was used to examine risk factors for the growth of cultures after 48 hours.

Results: A total of 524 respiratory cultures had growth of GNRs, of which 284 (54.2%) had resistance to ceftriaxone. A total of 376 blood cultures grew GNRs, of which 70 (18.6%) had resistance to ceftriaxone. At 48 hours, 87% of respiratory cultures and 85% of blood cultures that ultimately grew GNRs resistant to ceftriaxone had demonstrated growth. Age, gender, predicted risk of inpatient mortality and prior use of antibiotics did not predict the growth of cultures after 48 hours.

Interpretation: Among a cohort of critically ill adults, 13% of respiratory cultures and 15% of blood cultures that ultimately grew GNRs resistant to ceftriaxone did not demonstrate growth until at least 48 hours after collection. Further work is needed to determine the ideal time for critically ill adults to de-escalate from broad-spectrum antibiotics targeting Pseudomonas aeruginosa and extended-spectrum β-lactamase-producing gram-negative pathogens.

Keywords: Pseudomonas aeruginosa; antimicrobial stewardship; bacteremia; ceftriaxone; critical care.

Publication types

  • Pragmatic Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Blood Culture
  • Ceftriaxone / pharmacology*
  • Critical Illness*
  • Crystalloid Solutions
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial*
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Isotonic Solutions


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Crystalloid Solutions
  • Isotonic Solutions
  • Ceftriaxone