Bacteria becoming resistant to an increasing number of antibiotic classes are a major problem at hospitals including critical care units worldwide. Awareness of this problem and the need to prevent the development of antibiotic resistance are very important, especially since very few new antibiotics will become available in the near future. This article gives an overview of the mechanisms of antibacterial resistance and actual resistance data worldwide of the most prevalent Gram positive (MRSA, VISA/VRSE and VRE) and Gram negative bacteria (Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Acinetobacter spp., ESBL producing Enterobacteriaceae and Stenotrophomonas maltophilia). Furthermore, strategies to reduce antibiotic resistance are reviewed. Most important is institution of infection control policies including guidelines on surveillance, isolation of colonized patients and contact precautions, hand hygiene, decolonization measures and environmental decontamination. Antimicrobial stewardship, or striking the balance between an optimal antibiotic treatment for a patient and a minimal risk of development of antibiotic resistance, is another important strategy. Finally, optimizing of antibiotic dosage regimens and thus avoiding underdosage is essential to avoid selection of the most resistant subpopulation of bacteria during antibiotic treatment. Intensive care units with knowledge of local epidemiology of resistance, an effective infection control program and antimicrobial stewardship policy tailored to their specific needs, and using optimal antibiotic dosing regimens have both locally decreased the risk of an outbreak with multi-resistant bacteria, and maybe even more important help to reduce the development of antibiotic resistance.
Keywords: Antibiotic resistance, critical care unit, MRSA, ESBL, antimicrobial stewardship, antibacterial resistance, multi-resistant bacteria, Broad spectrum carbapenems, antibiotic dosing regimens, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Nosocomial MRSA infections, National Nosocomial Infections Surveillance System (NNIS), antibacterial target, Extended-spectrum β-lactamases (ESBLs), Stenotrophomonas maltophilia, health-care associated infections