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August 15, 1966

Hospitals Report Increase In Gram-Negative Infections

JAMA. 1966;197(7):29-30. doi:10.1001/jama.1966.03110070015004

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This decade of liberal antibiotic therapy has not prevented a more than seven-fold increase in septicemia within six Cincinnati hospitals. The reason: gram-negative bacilli.

Considered "non-pathogenic" when most physicians were in medical school, these organisms now thrive in the vacuum created by suppression of formerly-virulent types, one clinician believes.

The Cincinnati experience from 1955-1965, which reflects the problem nationwide, was reviewed for the recent Coller-Penberthy-Thirlby Medical Conference by William A. Altemeier, MD.

"For some time I'd had the impression that the number of cases of septicemia were not decreased by antibiotic therapy, but increased," he explained.

"Then in the winter of 1964 I saw 24 cases of septicemia within 21 days.... Twenty-one were caused by gram-negative bacilli.... Seventeen patients developed infection while on antibiotics."

This precipitated a review of the ten-year experience with septicemia of six Greater Cincinnati institutions. The four hospitals of the University of Cincinnati group and two