Controlling gut flora can reduce mortality rate in critically ill patients on life support

Preventing severe lung infections in mechanically ventilated intensive care patients by applying topical antibiotics to the upper digestive tract results in a clinically meaningful improvement in survival, new research shows.

The results are being presented during the ‘Hot Topics’ session of the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine annual congress in Paris and simultaneously published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Professor John Myburgh AO, lead author and Director of the Critical Care Division at The George Institute for Global Health, said that ventilator-associated pneumonia is a major cause of death and disability in critically ill patients being mechanically ventilated in intensive care units.

“While the concept of ‘selective decontamination’ of the digestive tract, or ‘SDD’, has been around for decades, this is the first large-scale randomised clinical trial that used a high-quality commercially prepared product specifically designed to prevent ventilator-associated pneumonia in these patients,” he said.

“In nearly 3,000 patients treated with SDD, we saw a reduction in death of around two percent, equivalent to one death prevented for every 50 patients treated.”

SDD is an infection-control measure where non-absorbed antibiotics and antifungal agents are applied to the mouth and stomach, combined with a short course of intravenous antibiotics.

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