BACKGROUND: The bacterial density of Pseudomonas aeruginosa is closely related to its pathogenicity. We evaluated the effect of airway P. aeruginosa density on the clinical course of mechanically ventilated patients and the therapeutic efficacy of antibiotics. METHODS: We retrospectively analyzed data of mechanically ventilated ICU patients with P. aeruginosa isolated from endotracheal aspirates. Patients were divided into three groups according to the peak P. aeruginosa density during ICU stay: low (≤ 104 cfu/mL), moderate (105‒106 cfu/mL), and high (≥ 107 cfu/mL) peak density groups. The relationship between peak P. aeruginosa density and weaning from mechanical ventilation, risk factors for isolation of high peak density of P. aeruginosa, and antibiotic efficacy were investigated using multivariate and propensity score-matched analyses. RESULTS: Four-hundred-and-sixty-one patients were enrolled. Patients with high peak density of P. aeruginosa had higher inflammation and developed more severe respiratory infections. High peak density of P. aeruginosa was independently associated with few ventilator-free days on day 28 (P < 0.01) and increased ICU mortality (P = 0.047). Risk factors for high peak density of P. aeruginosa were prolonged mechanical ventilation (odd ratio [OR] 3.07 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.35‒6.97), non-antipseudomonal cephalosporins (OR 2.17, 95% CI 1.35‒3.49), hyperglycemia (OR 2.01, 95% CI 1.26‒3.22) during ICU stay, and respiratory diseases (OR 1.9, 95% CI 1.12‒3.23). Isolation of commensal colonizer was associated with lower risks of high peak density of P. aeruginosa (OR 0.43, 95% CI 0.26‒0.73). Propensity score-matched analysis revealed that antibiotic therapy for patients with ventilator-associated tracheobronchitis improved weaning from mechanical ventilation only in the high peak P. aeruginosa group. CONCLUSIONS: Patients with high peak density of P. aeruginosa had worse ventilator outcome and ICU mortality. In patients with ventilator-associated tracheobronchitis, antibiotic therapy was associated with favorable ventilator weaning only in the high peak P. aeruginosa density group, and bacterial density could be a good therapeutic indicator for ventilator-associated tracheobronchitis due to P. aeruginosa.
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