Informed switching strongly decreases the prevalence of antibiotic resistance in hospital wards

Roger D. Kouyos, Pia Abel zur Wiesch, Sebastian Bonhoeffer

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34 Scopus citations


Antibiotic resistant nosocomial infections are an important cause of mortality and morbidity in hospitals. Antibiotic cycling has been proposed to contain this spread by a coordinated use of different antibiotics. Theoretical work, however, suggests that often the random deployment of drugs ("mixing") might be the better strategy. We use an epidemiological model for a single hospital ward in order to assess the performance of cycling strategies which take into account the frequency of antibiotic resistance in the hospital ward. We assume that information on resistance frequencies stems from microbiological tests, which are performed in order to optimize individual therapy. Thus the strategy proposed here represents an optimization at population-level, which comes as a free byproduct of optimizing treatment at the individual level. We find that in most cases such an informed switching strategy outperforms both periodic cycling and mixing, despite the fact that information on the frequency of resistance is derived only from a small sub-population of patients. Furthermore we show that the success of this strategy is essentially a stochastic phenomenon taking advantage of the small population sizes in hospital wards. We find that the performance of an informed switching strategy can be improved substantially if information on resistance tests is integrated over a period of one to two weeks. Finally we argue that our findings are robust against a (moderate) preexistence of doubly resistant strains and against transmission via environmental reservoirs. Overall, our results suggest that switching between different antibiotics might be a valuable strategy in small patient populations, if the switching strategies take the frequencies of resistance alleles into account.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1001094
JournalPLoS computational biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Ecology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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