When should I pay attention to the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of an antibiotic despite the lab reporting it to be in the “Susceptible” range?

In most situations, you will most likely choose an antibiotic based on the laboratory reporting of “Susceptible” (vs “Resistant”), not the actual MIC value of the drug and that’s fine.  

However, there may be a few instances when you may need to pay more attention to the actual MICs. Many experts recommend caution when “high” MICs within a susceptible range are observed in the following situations:   

  1. Vancomycin MIC >1 ug/ml in Staphylococcal aureus (methicillin-sensitive or –resistant) infections because of its possible association with clinical failure and, at times, increased mortality1,2.
  2. Ciprofloxacin or levofloxacin MIC>0.25 ug/ml in bacteremia caused by Gram-negative bacilli (including Enterobacteriacae as well as Pseudomonas aeruginosa) because of its association with an adverse outcome (eg, longer average hospital stay post-culture and duration of infection) but not necessarily mortality3-5.
  3. Levofloxacin MIC ≥ 1.0 ug/ml in Streptococcus pneumoniae infections, because of its association with an adverse clinical outcome based on drug pharmacodynamics and anecdotal reports of treatment failure6,7.



  1. Jacob JT, DiazGranados CA. High vancomycin minimum inhibitory concentration and clinical outomces in adults with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections: a meta-analysis. Int J Infect Dis 2013;17:e93-e100.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3780595/
  2. Kalil AC, Van Schooneveld TC, Fey PD, et al. Association between vancomycin minimum inhibitory concentration and mortality among patients with Staphylococcus aureus bloodstream infections: A systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA 2014;312:1552-1564. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25321910
  3. DeFife R, Scheetz MH, Feinglass J, et al. Effect of differences in MIC values on clinical outcomes in patients with bloodstream infections caused by Gram-negative organisms treated with levofloxacin. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 2009;53:1074-79. http://aac.asm.org/content/53/3/1074.full
  4. Falagas ME, Tansarli GS, Rafailidis PI, et al. Impact of antibiotic MIC on infection outcome in patients with susceptible Gram-negative bacteria a systematic review and meta-analysis. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 2012;56:4214-22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22615292
  5. Zelenitsky SA, Harding GKM, Sun S, et al. Treatment and outcome of Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteremia: an antibiotic pharmacodynamics analysis. J Antimicrob Chemother 2003;52:668-674. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12951354
  6. Davidson R, Cavalcanti R, Brunton JL, et al. Resistance to levofloxacin and failure of treatment of pneumococcal pneumonia. N Engl J Med 2002;346:. 2002;346:747-50. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11882730
  7. De Cueto M, Rodriguez JM, Soriano MJ, et al. Fatal levofloxacin failure in treatment of a bacteremic patient infected with Streptococcus pneumoniae with a preexisting parC mutation. J Clin Microbiol 2008;46:1558-1560.  http://jcm.asm.org/content/46/4/1558.full

Contributed in part by Nick Van Hise, Pharm.D., BCPS, Infectious Diseases Clinical Pharmacist, Edward-Elmhurst Hospitals, Naperville, Illinois.

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When should I pay attention to the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of an antibiotic despite the lab reporting it to be in the “Susceptible” range?

How should minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) reported by the microbiology lab be interpreted?

MIC is the minimum inhibitory concentration of an antibiotic (AB) that inhibits an organism invitro, By itself, MIC does NOT take into account the pharmacokinetics (PKs) or pharmacodynamics (PDs) of an AB which ultimately determine its susceptibility cut-offs.

“Susceptible” implies that the isolate is inhibited by the usually achievable concentrations of the AB when recommended dosage is followed for the specific site of infection. “Intermediate” suggests that the MIC approaches usually attainable blood and tissue levels but at less- than-desirable expected clinical response rates, and generally should be avoided when an alternative AB exists. “Resistant” refers to isolates that are not inhibited by the usually achievable AB concentrations. In the absence of PK/PD data, comparing MICs can be misleading (i.e. lower MIC does not necessarily suggest a more potent AB).

Short answer: you can generally skip the MIC data and make antibiotic selection based on susceptibility report alone.

Please also see a related pearl on P4P at https://pearls4peers.com/2016/12/19/when-should-i-pay-attention-to-the-minimum-inhibitory-concentration-mic-of-an-antibiotic-despite-the-lab-reporting-it-to-be-in-the-susceptible-range/



Turnridge J, Paterson DL. Setting and revising antibacterial susceptibility breakpoints. Clin Microbiol Rev 2007;20:391-408. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17630331  

How should minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) reported by the microbiology lab be interpreted?