Benefits and unintended consequences of antimicrobial de-escalation: Implications for stewardship programs

Josie Hughes, Xi Huo, Lindsey Falk, Amy Hurford, Kunquan Lan, Bryan Coburn, Andrew Morris, Jianhong Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Sequential antimicrobial de-escalation aims to minimize resistance to high-value broadspectrum empiric antimicrobials by switching to alternative drugs when testing confirms susceptibility. Though widely practiced, the effects de-escalation are not well understood. Definitions of interventions and outcomes differ among studies. We use mathematical models of the transmission and evolution of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in an intensive care unit to assess the effect of de-escalation on a broad range of outcomes, and clarify expectations. In these models, de-escalation reduces the use of high-value drugs and preserves the effectiveness of empiric therapy, while also selecting for multidrug-resistant strains and leaving patients vulnerable to colonization and superinfection. The net effect of de-escalation in our models is to increase infection prevalence while also increasing the probability of effective treatment. Changes in mortality are small, and can be either positive or negative. The clinical significance of small changes in outcomes such as infection prevalence and death may exceed more easily detectable changes in drug use and resistance. Integrating harms and benefits into ranked outcomes for each patient may provide a way forward in the analysis of these tradeoffs. Our models provide a conceptual framework for the collection and interpretation of evidence needed to inform antimicrobial stewardship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0171218
JournalPloS one
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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