My patient has developed isolated eosinophilia without symptoms while receiving an antibiotic. Should I consider discontinuing the antibiotic or can I just continue it as long as she has no symptoms?

Short answer: We don’t really know what’s the best way to manage patients with  isolated (asymptomatic) eosinophilia (IE) that develops during antibiotic therapy. We do know that the majority of patients with IE may never develop hypersensitivity reaction such as rash, renal or liver injuries, but predicting who will or will not get HSRs is a challenge.1-3 Couple of studies may help us in our decision making, however.

In a 2015 study1 involving patients receiving outpatient parenteral antibiotics, eosinophilia was present in 25% of patients during their course of treatment, of whom 30% subsequently developed HSR and 5% developed more than 1 sign of HSR. Patients with IE and subsequent HSR developed eosinophilia earlier in their course of treatment (median 11 vs 17 days) and had a higher peak absolute eosinophil count (~ 850 vs ~700/ ml).  The authors suggested that close monitoring for rash and renal injury in patient with IE during antibiotic therapy be considered, and that medication changes may be necessary when IE is associated with earlier onset of eosinophilia or higher absolute eosinophil count.

In a 2017 prospective study2 of patients with eosinophilic drug reactions (~20% related to antibiotics), the majority (56%) were asymptomatic. Earlier onset of eosinophilia and higher eosinophil count were associated with symptomatic eosinophilia, similar to the aforementioned study. The frequency of patients with IE who went on to have symptomatic eosinophilia when the suspect drug was continued vs those in whom it was not continued remains unclear from these studies.

Ultimately, the decision to continue or discontinue a suspect antibiotic when your patient has new-onset IE should be made on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the severity of the patient’s infection, availability of equally effective and tolerated alternative drugs and the ability to closely monitor for symptomatic disease. The timing of onset of eosinophilia and its peak absolute count may also play a role.

Bonus pearl: Did you know that only 18% of inpatients with cutaneous drug eruptions may have peripheral eosinophilia?4

The author acknowledges the invaluable input of Kimberly Blumenthal, MD in composing this pearl.

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  1. Blumenthal KG, Youngster I, Rabideau DJ, et al. Peripheral blood eosinophilia and hypersensitivity reactions among patients receiving outpatient parenteral antibiotics. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2015;136:1288.1294.
  2. Ramirez E, Mdrano-Casique N, Tong HY, et al. Eosinophilic drug reactions detected by a prospective pharmacovigilance programme in a tertiary hospital. Br J Pharmacol 2017;83:400-15.
  3. Rauscher C, Freeman A. Drug-induced eosinophilia. Allergy Asthma Proc 2018;39:252-56.
  4. Romagosa R, Kapoor S, Sanders J, et al. inpatient adverse cutaneous drug erutpions and eosinophilia. Arch Dermatol 2001; 137:511-12.   



My patient has developed isolated eosinophilia without symptoms while receiving an antibiotic. Should I consider discontinuing the antibiotic or can I just continue it as long as she has no symptoms?

Should I routinely select antibiotics with activity against anaerobes in my patients with presumed aspiration pneumonia?

Anaerobes have been considered a major cause of aspiration pneumonia (AP) based on studies published in 1970’s (1-3). More recent data, however, suggest that anaerobes no longer play an important role in most cases of AP (4-7) and routine inclusion of specific anti-anaerobic drugs in their treatment is no longer necessary.

An important reason for anaerobes not playing an important role in AP in the current era is the change in the demographics of patients who may be affected. Patients reported in older studies often suffered from alcohol use disorder, drug ingestion, seizure disorders and acute cerebrovascular accident. In contrast, more recent data show that AP often occurs in nursing home residents, the elderly with cognitive impairment, and those with dysphagia, gastrointestinal dysmotility or tube feeding (8,9).

In addition, many cases of AP reported in older studies involved delay of 4 or more days before seeking medical attention and, not surprisingly, often presented with lung abscess, necrotizing pneumonia, empyema, or putrid sputum, features that are relatively rare in the current era.

Further supporting the diminishing role of anaerobes in AP, are recent microbiological studies of the respiratory tract in AP revealing the infrequent isolation of anaerobes and, even when isolated, often coexisting with aerobic bacteria. The latter observation is important because, due to the alteration in the redox potential (9,10), treatment of aerobic bacteria alone may lead to less oxygenation consumption and less favorable environment for survival of anaerobes in the respiratory tract.

We should also always consider the potential adverse effects of unnecessary antibiotics with anaerobic activity in our frequently debilitated patients, including gastrointestinal dysbiosis (associated with Clostridiodes difficile infections and overgrowth of antibiotic-resistant pathogens such as vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), hypersensitivity reactions, drug interactions, and central nervous system toxicity (11,12).
Thus, the weight of the evidence does not justify routine anaerobic coverage of AP in today’s patients.

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1. Bartlett JG, Gorbach SL, Finegold SM. The bacteriology of aspiration pneumonia. Am J Med. 1974;56(2):202-7.
2. Bartlett JG, Finegold SM. Anaerobic pleuropulmonary infections. Medicine (Baltimore). 1972;51(6):413-50.
3. Bartlett JG, Gorbach SL. The triple threat of aspiration pneumonia. Chest. 1975;68(4):560-6.
4. Finegold SM. Aspiration pneumonia. Rev Infect Dis. 1991;13 Suppl 9:S737-42.
5. Bartlett JG. How important are anaerobic bacteria in aspiration pneumonia: when should they be treated and what is optimal therapy. Infect Dis Clin North Am. 2013;27(1):149-55.
6. El-Solh AA, Pietrantoni C, Bhat A, Aquilina AT, Okada M, Grover V, et al. Microbiology of severe aspiration pneumonia in institutionalized elderly. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2003;167(12):1650-4.
7. Marik PE, Careau P. The role of anaerobes in patients with ventilator-associated pneumonia and aspiration pneumonia: a prospective study. Chest. 1999;115(1):178-83.
8. Bowerman TJ, Zhang J, Waite LM. Antibacterial treatment of aspiration pneumonia in older people: a systematic review. Clin Interv Aging. 2018;13:2201-13.
9. Mandell LA, Niederman MS. Aspiration Pneumonia. N Engl J Med. 2019 Feb 14;380(7):651-663. doi: 10.1056/NEJMra1714562.
10. Walden, W. C., & Hentges, D. J. (1975). Differential effects of oxygen and oxidation-reduction potential on the multiplication of three species of anaerobic intestinal bacteria. Applied microbiology, 30(5), 781–785.
11. Sullivan A, Edlund C, Nord CE. Effect of antimicrobial agents on the ecological balance of human microflora. Lancet Infect Dis. 2001;1(2):101-14.
12. Bhalla A, Pultz NJ, Ray AJ, Hoyen CK, Eckstein EC, Donskey CJ. Antianaerobic antibiotic therapy promotes overgrowth of antibiotic-resistant, gram-negative bacilli and vancomycin-resistant enterococci in the stool of colonized patients. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2003;24(9):644-9.


Contributed by Amar Vedamurthy, MD, MPH, Mass General Hospital, Boston, MA

Should I routinely select antibiotics with activity against anaerobes in my patients with presumed aspiration pneumonia?