What is the clinical relevance of “SPICE” organisms?

“SPICE” often stands for the following bacterial species: Serratia spp, Providencia spp, indole-positive Proteae (e.g. Proteus spp. [not mirabilis], Morganella spp., Providencia spp.), Citrobacter spp., and Enterobacter spp.  Some have also included Pseudomonas spp (“P”).

These organisms (as well as Acinetobacter spp., at times “A” in SP”A”CE organisms) often have inducible chromosomal AmpC ß-lactamase genes that may be derepressed during therapy, conferring in vivo ß-lactam resistance despite apparent sensitivity in vitro (1,2). Because AmpC genes in clinical isolates are not routinely screened for in the laboratory, the following treatment approach to these organisms is often adopted (1).

Third generation cephalosporins (e.g. ceftriaxone and ceftazidime) are usually avoided irrespective of in vitro susceptibility. For less serious infections (e.g. urinary tract infections) or severe infections in carefully monitored clinically stable patients, piperacillin-tazobactam and cefepime in particular may be used due to their lower risk of induced resistance. For severe infections (e.g. pneumonia and bacteremia) in seriously ill patients, carbapenems (e.g. meropenem, imipenem-cilastatin) are often the drugs of choice. 

A small retrospective study of patients with infection due to SPICE organisms (about 50% with bacteremia) found cefepime to be as effective as meropenem, but cautioned its use when adequate source control has not been achieved (3). Fluroroquinolones and aminoglycosides may also be considered.


  1. MacDougall C. Beyond susceptible and resistant, part I: treatment of infections due to Gram-negative organisms with inducible ß-lactamases. J Pediatr Pharmacol Ther 2011;16:23-30. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3136230/
  2. Jacoby GA. AmpC ß-lactamases. Clin Microbiol Rev 2009;22:161-182. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2620637/
  3. Tamma PD, Girdwood SCT, Gopaul R, et al. The use of cefepime for treating AmpC ß-lactamase-producing Enterobacteriaceae. Clin Infect Dis 2013;57:781-8. https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/57/6/781/330020

Contributed in part by Avi Geller, Medical Student, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA


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What is the clinical relevance of “SPICE” organisms?

Is oral vancomycin prophylaxis (OVP) effective in preventing recurrent Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) in patients requiring systemic antimicrobial therapy (SAT)?

Although OVP is often administered to patients with history of CDI who require SAT, evidence to support this practice has been lacking until recently.

In a 2016 retrospective study of 203 patients with prior history of CDI, those who received OVP (125 mg or 250 mg 2x/daily) during the course of their SAT and for up to 1 week thereafter were significantly less likely to have a recurrence than the non-OVP group (4.2% vs 26.6%, respectively, O.R. 0.12 [C.I. 0.04-0.4]) (1). In this study, the mean interval between prior CDI and initiation of prophylaxis was 6.1 months (1-21 months), and the mean duration of prophylaxis following discontinuation of SAT was 1 day (0-6 days). Similar results have been reported by others (2,3).

Despite their retrospective nature, these studies lend support to the use of OVP in reducing the risk of recurrent CDI in patients who require SAT. It is unclear how long OVP should be continued after SAT is completed, if at all, but common practice is 1-2 weeks.

A randomized-controlled study comparing OVP 125 mg daily for the duration of SAT plus 5 days vs placebo appears to be on the way (4)!


  1. Van Hise NW, Bryant AM, Hennessey EK, Crannage AJ, Khoury JA, Manian FA. Efficacy of oral vancomycin in preventing recurrent Clostridium difficile infection in patients treated with systemic antimicrobial agents. Clin Infect Dis 2016; Advance Access published June 17, 2016. Doi.10.1093/cid/ciw401.
  2. Carignan A, Sebastien Poulin, Martin P, et al. Efficacy of secondary prophylaxis with vancomycin for preventing recurrent Clostridium difficile infections. Am J Gastroenterol 2016;111: 1834-40. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27619835
  3. Granetsky A, Han JH, Hughes ME, et al. Oral vancomycin is highly effective in preventing Clostridium difficile infection in allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients. Blood 2016;128:2225; http://www.bloodjournal.org/content/128/22/2225?sso-checked=true
  4. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03462459

Disclosure: The author of this post was also a co-investigator of one of the studies cited (ref. 1).

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Is oral vancomycin prophylaxis (OVP) effective in preventing recurrent Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) in patients requiring systemic antimicrobial therapy (SAT)?