medRxiv. 2021 Jan 15:2021.01.12.20248588. doi: 10.1101/2021.01.12.20248588. Preprint.
BACKGROUND: Severe community-acquired pneumonia secondary to SARS-CoV-2 is a leading cause of death. Current guidelines recommend patients with SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia receive empirical antibiotic therapy for suspected bacterial superinfection, but little evidence supports these recommendations.
METHODS: We obtained bronchoscopic bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) samples from patients with SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia requiring mechanical ventilation. We analyzed BAL samples with multiplex PCR and quantitative culture to determine the prevalence of superinfecting pathogens at the time of intubation and identify episodes of ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) over the course of mechanical ventilation. We compared antibiotic use with guideline-recommended care.
RESULTS: The 179 ventilated patients with severe SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia discharged from our hospital by June 30, 2020 were analyzed. 162 (90.5%) patients had at least one BAL procedure; 133 (74.3%) within 48 hours after intubation and 112 (62.6%) had at least one subsequent BAL during their hospitalization. A superinfecting pathogen was identified within 48 hours of intubation in 28/133 (21%) patients, most commonly methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus species (21/28, 75%). BAL-based treatment reduced antibiotic use compared with guideline-recommended care. 72 patients (44.4%) developed at least one VAP episode. Only 15/72 (20.8%) of initial VAPs were attributable to multidrug-resistant pathogens. The incidence rate of VAP was 45.2/1000 ventilator days.
CONCLUSIONS: With use of sensitive diagnostic tools, bacterial superinfection at the time of intubation is infrequent in patients with severe SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia. Treatment based on current guidelines would result in substantial antibiotic overuse. The incidence rate of VAP in ventilated patients with SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia are higher than historically reported.