When it comes to preventing infections associated with orthopaedic procedures, the question of which antibiotic to use is only one of several concerns. How and where to administer antibiotics is another relevant question, not only in terms of infection-fighting effectiveness but also in terms of combatting the proliferation of antibiotic-resistant microbes.
In the September 19, 2018 issue of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, Sweet et al. report on findings from a study in rats that compared the infection-prevention efficacy of intravenous (IV) cefazolin (n = 20) and IV vancomycin (n = 20) with local application of 4 antimicrobials—vancomycin powder (n = 20), cefazolin powder (n = 20), tobramycin powder (n = 20), and dilute Betadine lavage (n = 20).
The researchers induced infection by surgically implanting a polytetrafluoroethylene vascular graft near each rat’s thoracic spine and inoculating it with methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA). After 7 days, all of the rats in each of the IV cefazolin, IV vancomycin, and Betadine lavage groups had grossly positive cultures for MSSA, “with bacterial colonies too numerous to count.” Ninety percent of the rats in the local cefazolin-powder group also had positive cultures, but the infection rates with vancomycin and tobramycin powder were much lower than those with the other four approaches (p <0.000001).
In addition to the main “disclaimer” about this study (namely, that its findings cannot be extrapolated to clinical practice in humans), the authors caution that “the effect of locally applied antibiotics on the emergence of resistant organisms is unknown,” while citing evidence that systemic administration of antibiotics is “associated with the emergence of resistant organisms at an alarming rate.”
Sweet et al. say they plan to follow up this study with a similar model to investigate the efficacy of local antimicrobials against the more problematic methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)—and they suggest further that “clinical studies should be considered to determine the relative clinical efficacy of local versus systemic antibiotics for surgical infection prophylaxis in humans.”