Gram-negative bacterial and fungal infections are a major cause of morbidity and mortality following liver transplantation. We therefore used selective bowel decontamination (SBD) to eliminate the endogenous source of gram-negative aerobic bacteria and Candida pathogens in an attempt to reduce the high incidence of infection related to these organisms. Thirty consecutive patients undergoing liver transplantation were treated with SBD starting 3 days prior to donor search and continuing for 21 days postliver transplantation. Selective bowel decontamination consisted of administering nonabsorbable antibiotics (Polymixin Έ, gentamicin, Nystatin) and a low bacterial diet. Surveillance cultures of the throat and rectum were obtained to monitor efficacy of selective bowel decontamination. In addition, in the posttransplant period, tracheal, wound, blood, and bile cultures were obtained to screen for gram-negative bacterial and Candida colonization and infection. Our baseline surveillance culture revealed that 29/30 (97%) of recipients were colonized with gram-negative aerobic bacteria and 16/30 (53%) with Candida. Three days after selective bowel decontamination was started, 26/ 30 (87%) were free of gram-negative bacteria, and 100% were free of Candida colonization of the gastrointestinal tract. There was a similar reduction in the oropharyngeal gram-negative aerobic bacteria and Candida colonization. In the first 30 days following liver transplantation, gram-negative infections were not diagnosed in any of our patients. Following discontinuation of SBD, recolonization of the gastrointestinal tract with gram-negative aerobic bacteria and Candida occurred within 5 days in 26/28 (90%) and 11/28 (35%), respectively. Our study suggests that prophylactive administration of nonabsorbable antibiotics will markedly reduce gram-negative aerobic bacterial and Candida colonization and appears to reduce the high incidence of infection related to these organisms in the early post-transplant period.
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