Gut barrier dysfunction and the risk of ICU-acquired bacteremia- a case-control study

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Background: Impaired intestinal barrier function can enable passage of enteric microorganisms into the bloodstream and lead to nosocomial bloodstream infections during critical illness. We aimed to determine the relative importance of gut translocation as a source for ICU-acquired enterococcal bacteremia of unknown origin. Methods: We conducted a nested case–control study in two mixed medical-surgical tertiary ICUs in the Netherlands among patients enrolled between 2011 and 2018. We selected 72 cases with ICU-acquired bacteremia due to enterococci (which are known gastrointestinal tract commensals) and 137 matched controls with bacteremia due to coagulase-negative staphylococci (CoNS) (which are of non-intestinal origin). We measured intestinal fatty acid-binding protein, trefoil factor-3, and citrulline 48 h before bacteremia onset. A composite measure for Gut Barrier Injury (GBI) was calculated as the sum of standardized z-scores for each biomarker plus a clinical gastrointestinal failure score. Results: No single biomarker yielded statistically significant differences between cases and controls. Median composite GBI was higher in cases than in controls (0.58, IQR − 0.36–1.69 vs. 0.32, IQR − 0.53–1.57, p = 0.33) and higher composite measures of GBI correlated with higher disease severity and ICU mortality (p < 0.001). In multivariable analysis, higher composite GBI was not significantly associated with increased occurrence of enterococcal bacteremia relative to CoNS bacteremia (adjusted OR 1.12 95% CI 0.93–1.34, p = 0.22). Conclusions: We could not demonstrate an association between biomarkers of gastrointestinal barrier dysfunction and an increased occurrence of bacteremia due to gut compared to skin flora during critical illness, suggesting against bacterial translocation as a major vector for acquisition of nosocomial bloodstream infections in the ICU.

Original languageEnglish
Article number42
JournalAnnals of Intensive Care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2024


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