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Diagram of process of superinfection. 1: Normal microbiota keeps opportunistic pathogens in check. Image shows many different bacteria, only 1 of which is labeled pathogen. 2: Broad-spectrum antibiotics kill nonresistant cells. Image shows all cells but pathogen being killed. 3: Drug-resistant pathogens proliferate and can cause a superinfection. Image shows many of the pathogen.
Broad-spectrum antimicrobial use may lead to the development of a superinfection. (credit: modification of work by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
  • What is a superinfection and how does one arise?

Dosage and route of administration

The amount of medication given during a certain time interval is the dosage , and it must be determined carefully to ensure that optimum therapeutic drug levels are achieved at the site of infection without causing significant toxicity ( side effects ) to the patient. Each drug class is associated with a variety of potential side effects, and some of these are described for specific drugs later in this chapter. Despite best efforts to optimize dosing, allergic reactions and other potentially serious side effects do occur. Therefore, the goal is to select the optimum dosage that will minimize the risk of side effects while still achieving clinical cure, and there are important factors to consider when selecting the best dose and dosage interval. For example, in children, dose is based upon the patient’s mass. However, the same is not true for adults and children 12 years of age and older, for which there is typically a single standard dose regardless of the patient’s mass. With the great variability in adult body mass, some experts have argued that mass should be considered for all patients when determining appropriate dosage. M.E. Falagas, D.E. Karageorgopoulos. “Adjustment of Dosing of Antimicrobial Agents for Bodyweight in Adults.” The Lancet 375 no. 9710 (2010):248–251. An additional consideration is how drugs are metabolized and eliminated from the body. In general, patients with a history of liver or kidney dysfunction may experience reduced drug metabolism or clearance from the body, resulting in increased drug levels that may lead to toxicity and make them more prone to side effects.

There are also some factors specific to the drugs themselves that influence appropriate dose and time interval between doses. For example, the half-life , or rate at which 50% of a drug is eliminated from the plasma, can vary significantly between drugs. Some drugs have a short half-life of only 1 hour and must be given multiple times a day, whereas other drugs have half-lives exceeding 12 hours and can be given as a single dose every 24 hours. Although a longer half-life can be considered an advantage for an antibacterial when it comes to convenient dosing intervals, the longer half-life can also be a concern for a drug that has serious side effects because drug levels may remain toxic for a longer time. Last, some drugs are dose dependent, meaning they are more effective when administered in large doses to provide high levels for a short time at the site of infection. Others are time dependent, meaning they are more effective when lower optimum levels are maintained over a longer period of time.

The route of administration , the method used to introduce a drug into the body, is also an important consideration for drug therapy. Drugs that can be administered orally are generally preferred because patients can more conveniently take these drugs at home. However, some drugs are not absorbed easily from the gastrointestinal (GI) tract into the bloodstream. These drugs are often useful for treating diseases of the intestinal tract, such as tapeworms treated with niclosamide , or for decontaminating the bowel, as with colistin . Some drugs that are not absorbed easily, such as bacitracin , polymyxin , and several antifungals, are available as topical preparations for treatment of superficial skin infections. Sometimes, patients may not initially be able to take oral medications because of their illness (e.g., vomiting, intubation for respirator). When this occurs, and when a chosen drug is not absorbed in the GI tract, administration of the drug by a parenteral route (intravenous or intramuscular injection) is preferred and typically is performed in health-care settings. For most drugs, the plasma levels achieved by intravenous administration is substantially higher than levels achieved by oral or intramuscular administration, and this can also be an important consideration when choosing the route of administration for treating an infection ( [link] ).

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Source:  OpenStax, Microbiology. OpenStax CNX. Nov 01, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col12087/1.4
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