Reducing the use of empiric antibiotic therapy in COVID-19 on hospital admission

BMC Infect Dis. 2021 Jun 2;21(1):516. doi: 10.1186/s12879-021-06219-z.


Background: Empiric antibiotics for community acquired bacterial pneumonia (CABP) are often prescribed to patients with COVID-19, despite a low reported incidence of co-infections. Stewardship interventions targeted at facilitating appropriate antibiotic prescribing for CABP among COVID-19 patients are needed. We developed a guideline for antibiotic initiation and discontinuation for CABP in COVID-19 patients. The purpose of this study was to assess the impact of this intervention on the duration of empiric CABP antibiotic therapy among patients with COVID-19.

Methods: This was a single-center, retrospective, quasi-experimental study of adult patients admitted between 3/1/2020 to 4/25/2020 with COVID-19 pneumonia, who were initiated on empiric CABP antibiotics. Patients were excluded if they were initiated on antibiotics > 48 h following admission or if another source of infection was identified. The primary outcome was the duration of antibiotic therapy (DOT) prior to the guideline (March 1 to March27, 2020) and after guideline implementation (March 28 to April 25, 2020). We also evaluated the clinical outcomes (mortality, readmissions, length of stay) among those initiated on empiric CABP antibiotics.

Results: A total of 506 patients with COVID-19 were evaluated, 102 pre-intervention and 404 post-intervention. Prior to the intervention, 74.5% (n = 76) of patients with COVID-19 received empiric antibiotics compared to only 42% of patients post-intervention (n = 170), p < 0.001. The median DOT in the post-intervention group was 1.3 days shorter (p < 0.001) than the pre-intervention group, and antibiotics directed at atypical bacteria DOT was reduced by 2.8 days (p < 0.001). More patients in the post-intervention group were initiated on antibiotics based on criteria consistent with our guideline (68% versus 87%, p = 0.001). There were no differences between groups in terms of clinical outcomes.

Conclusion: Following the implementation of a guideline outlining recommendations for initiating and discontinuing antibiotics for CABP among COVID-19 inpatients, we observed a reduction in antibiotic prescribing and DOT. The guideline also resulted in a significant increase in the rate of guideline-congruent empiric antibiotic initiation.

Keywords: Antimicrobial stewardship; COVID-19; Pneumonia.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antimicrobial Stewardship
  • COVID-19 Drug Treatment*
  • Coinfection / drug therapy
  • Community-Acquired Infections / drug therapy
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Inpatients
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / drug therapy
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents