, Volume 50, Issue 5-6, pp 745-761

The digestive tract in immunocompromised patients: importance of maintaining its resistance to colonization, especially in hospital in-patients and those taking antibiotics

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Abstract

The colonization resistance (CR) of the gastrointestinal tract to potential pathogens depends partly on factors within the host but to a greater extent on the normal (anaerobic) gut flora. Its strength varies between individuals. These individual differences in resistance to colonization by pathogenic microorganisms may explain differences in susceptibility to infection. CR is lowered by remission-inducing treatment (radiation and/or chemotherapy) in leukaemia, but more severely by certain antibiotics. Development (by selection or transfer) of resistance to these antibiotics may lead to overgrowth and penetration of the mucosal lining by the overgrowing (potentially) pathogenic bacteria.

Other antibiotics however, if sufficiently dosed, have been found to eliminate (potential) pathogens selectively without decreasing CR. This selective decontamination of the gastrointestinal tract has been successfully used prophylactically in neutropenic patients but needs to be monitored bacteriologically. It should perhaps be used more widely in the hospital to control development and spread of antibiotic-resistant strains.