Published: 03 March 2023

Emily L Heil, Kimberly C Claeys, Ellen G Kline, Tara M Rogers, Kevin M Squires, Alina Iovleva, Yohei Doi, Mary Banoub, Mandee M Noval, Paul M Luethy,
Ryan K Shields


We evaluated the clinical characteristics and outcomes of patients with COVID-19 who received three-drug combination regimens for treatment of carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii (CRAB) infections during a single-centre outbreak. Our objective was to describe the clinical outcomes and molecular characteristics and in vitro synergy of antibiotics against CRAB isolates.

Materials and methods
Patients with severe COVID-19 admitted between April and July 2020 with CRAB infections were retrospectively evaluated. Clinical success was defined as resolution of signs/symptoms of infection without need for additional antibiotics. Representative isolates underwent whole-genome sequencing (WGS) and in vitro synergy of two- or three-drug combinations was assessed by checkerboard and time-kill assays, respectively.

Eighteen patients with CRAB pneumonia or bacteraemia were included. Treatment regimens included high-dose ampicillin-sulbactam, meropenem, plus polymyxin B (SUL/MEM/PMB; 72%), SUL/PMB plus minocycline (MIN; 17%) or other combinations (12%). Clinical resolution was achieved in 50% of patients and 30-day mortality was 22% (4/18). Seven patients had recurrent infections, during which further antimicrobial resistance to SUL or PMB was not evident. PMB/SUL was the most active two-drug combination by checkerboard. Paired isolates collected before and after treatment with SUL/MEM/PMB did not demonstrate new gene mutations or differences in the activity of two- or three-drug combinations.

Use of three-drug regimens for severe CRAB infections among COVID-19 resulted in high rates of clinical response and low mortality relative to previous studies. The emergence of further antibiotic resistance was not detected phenotypically or through WGS analysis. Additional studies are needed to elucidate preferred antibiotic combinations linked to the molecular characteristics of infecting strains.