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Inapparent Outbreaks of Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia An Ecologic Analysis of Prevention and Cohort Studies

  • James C. Hurley (a1)

To compare ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) rates and patterns of isolates across studies of antibiotic and non-antibiotic methods for preventing VAP.


With the use of 42 cohort study groups as the reference standard, the prevalence of VAP was modeled in two linear regressions: one with the control groups and the other with the intervention groups of 96 VAP prevention studies. The proportion of patients admitted with trauma and the VAP diagnostic criteria were used as ecologic correlates. Also, the patterns of pathogenic isolates were available for 117 groups.


In the first regression model, the VAP rates for the control groups of antibiotic-based prevention studies were at least 18 (CI95, 12 to 24) per 100 patients higher than those in the cohort study groups (P < .001). By contrast, comparisons of cohort study groups with all other control and intervention groups in the first and second regression models yielded differences that were less than 6 per 100 and not significant (P > .05). For control groups with VAP rates greater than 35%, the patterns of VAP isolates, such as the proportion of Staphylococcus aureus, more closely resembled those in the corresponding intervention groups than in the cohort groups.


The rates of VAP in the control groups of the antibiotic prevention studies were significantly higher than expected and the patterns of pathogenic isolates were unusual. These observations suggest that inapparent outbreaks of VAP occurred in these studies. The possibility remains that antibiotic-based VAP prevention presents a major cross-infection hazard.

Corresponding author
Ballarat Health Services, PO Box 577, Drummond St., N, Ballarat 3353, Victoria,
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