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The basis of effective , true

chemoprophylaxis is the use of a drug in
an healthy patient to prevent infection by
one organism of a certain susceptibility to
the administered drug.

e.g. Benzylpenicillin
against a group A streptococci.

It should be used in circumstances in

which efficacy is demonstrated and
benefits outweigh the risk of prophylaxis

Categories in which chemoprophylaxis is


True prevention of a primary infection :- e.g. Rheumatic

recurrent urinary tract infections.

Prevention of opportunistic infections :- e.g. Due to

commensals getting into the wrong place (bacterial
endocarditis after surgery and peritonitis after bowel
surgery), immunocompromised patients can benefit from

Suppression of existing infection before it causes overt

disease :- e.g. tuberculosis , malaria , animal bites ,

Prevention of spread among contacts :- e.g. If there is a

case of pertussis in the family a nonimmune young fragile
child may benefit from erythromycin.

Problems commonly encountered on the use of chemoprophylaxis

Attempts to use prophylactic drugs for pneumonia in the

unconscious or in the patients with heart failure , in the
newborn after prolonged labour, and in patients with long
term urinary catheters have not only failed but have
sometimes encouraged infections with less susceptible

Attempts routinely used to prevent bacterial infection

secondary to viral infections e.g. in respiratory tract
infections measles have not been sufficiently successful to
outweigh the disadvantages of drug allergy and infection
with drug resistant bacteria.

So in these situations it is generally better to be alert for

complications and then to treat them vigorously instead of
trying to prevent them.

There are two types of chemoprophylaxis:-

Surgical Prophylaxis

Nonsurgical Prophylaxis

Surgical Prophylaxis

Surgical site infections (SSIs) are a major site of nosocomical infections. The
estimated annual cost of nosocomical infections in the US is $1.5 billion.

General principles of antimicrobial surgical prophylaxis includes:


The antibiotic should be effective against common surgical wound

pathogen, unnecessarily broad coverage should be avoided as it may lead to


The antibiotic has proved efficacy in the clinical trials.


The antibiotic must achieve concentrations greater than the MIC of suspected
pathogens, and these concentrations must be present at the time of the


The shortest possible course, ie ideally a single dose of the most effective
and least toxic antibiotic should be used.


The newer broad spectrum antibiotics should be reserved for the therapy of
resistant infections.


If all the other factors are equal, the least expensive antibiotic should be

The National Research Council (NRC) wound classification

criteria have served as the basis for recommending
antimicrobial prophylaxis.

The Study of the efficacy of the Nosocomical Infection

Control (SENIC) identified four risk factors for post operative
wound infections:


Operations on the abdomen.


Operations lasting more than 2 hours.


Contaminated or the dirty wound classification of the NRC.


Surgeries for complications which had 3 medical diagnoses.

Patients with at least 2 SENIC risk factors who undergo

clean surgical procedures have an increased risk of developing
surgical wound infection and must receive antimicrobial

The surgical procedures that

necessitate the use of
antimicrobial chemoprophylaxis

Contaminated and clean contaminated



Selected operations in which post

operative infection may be catastrophic
like open heart surgery.


Clean procedures that involve

placement of prosthetic materials.


Any procedures in an immunocompromised host.

Certain points should be kept in mind before administering

prophylactic antimicrobials.


Local wound infection patterns should be considered

before administering antimicrobials.


The selection of vancomycin over cefazolin must be

considered in hospitals with high rates of methicillin
resistant staph aureus or staph epidermidis infections.


In cesarean section antimicrobial is administered after

umbilical cord clamping.


If short acting drugs like cefoxitin are used then the drug
should be re-administered after 3-4 hrs of procedure.
Other wise the parenteral administration till the time of
incision is sufficient.

Nonsurgical Prophylaxis

Nonsurgical prophylaxis includes the administration of

antimicrobials to prevent colonization or asymptomatic
infection as well as the administration of drugs following
colonization by or inoculation of pathogens but before
the development of disease.

Nonsurgical prophylaxis is indicated in individuals who

are at high risk for temporary exposure to selected
virulent pathogens and in patients who are at increased
risk for developing infection because of underlying
disease (e.g. immunocompromised hosts).

Prophylaxis is most effective when directed against

organisms that are predictably susceptible to
antimicrobial agents.