According to research, exposure to antibiotics during a hospital stay can significantly increase the risk of sepsis or septic shock after discharge.

While sepsis is rare, it’s nearly 80% more likely after treatment with certain “high-risk” antibiotics, compared with no antibiotic therapy, according to James Baggs, PhD, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

But the risk is elevated regardless of what antibiotics are used and rises with the duration of treatment, Baggs reported at the annual IDWeek meeting. The meeting brings together four organizations that focus on infectious disease — the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA), the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA), and the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society (PIDS).

The study is “interesting because it brings together a number of really hot topics — antibiotic use, sepsis, and this whole concept of the good bacteria in our bodies, the microbiome,” commented Arjun Srinivasan, MD, of the CDC, and the conference program chair for SHEA.

Srinivasan told reporters the study builds on intriguing data from animals that has suggested, “if you mess up their microbiome” with antibiotics, they are much more susceptible to serious infection and sepsis.

Baggs and colleagues, he said, have shown that in humans, the same is true: “There really is a tremendous disturbance in the healthy bacteria when we get an antibiotic that can have a significant downside.”

It’s “one more call to focus our efforts on using antibiotics only when we need them,” he said.

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