When should I consider a switch to oral antibiotics and discharge from hospital in my recently admitted elderly patient with community-acquired pneumonia (CAP)?

A frequently used validated set of clinical stability criteria in patients with CAP and supported by the 2019 ATS/IDSA CAP guidelines consists of a temperature ≤37.8 ᵒC (100.0 ᵒF) AND no more than 1 CAP-related sign of clinical instability as listed below: 1-3

  • Heart rate >100/min
  • Systolic blood pressure <90 mm Hg
  • Respiration rate >24 breaths/min
  • Arterial oxygen saturation <90% or Pa02<60 mm Hg (room air)

Using these criteria, the risk of clinical deterioration serious enough to necessitate transfer to an intensive care unit may be 1% or less, 1 while failure to achieve clinical stability within 5 days is associated with higher mortality and worse clinical outcome. 2 The median time to clinical stability (as defined) for CAP treatment is 3 days.1  

A 2016 randomized-controlled trial involving patients hospitalized with CAP found that implementation of above clinical stability criteria was associated with safe discontinuation of antibiotics after a minimum of 5 days of appropriate therapy.

Potential limitations of the above study include heavy use of quinolones (80%), underrepresentation of patients with severe CAP (Pneumonia Risk Index, PSI, V), and exclusion of nursing home residents, immunosuppressed patients, those with chest tube, or infection caused by less common organisms, such as Staphylococcus aureus or Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Lack of clinical stability after 5 days of CAP treatment should prompt evaluation for complications of pneumonia (eg, empyema, lung abscess), infection due to  organisms resistant to selected antibiotics, or an alternative source of infection/inflammatory/poor response. 2


  1. Halm, EA, Fine MJ, Marrie TJ, et al. Time to clinical stability in patients hospitalized with community-acquired pneumonia: implications for practice guidelines. JAMA 1998;279:279:1452-57. https://reference.medscape.com/medline/abstract/9600479
  2. Metlay JP, Waterer GW, Long AC, et al. Diagnosis and treatment of adults with community-acquired pneumonia. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2019;200:e45-e67. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31573350
  3. Uranga A, Espana PP, Bilbao A, et al. Duration of antibiotic treatment in community-acquired pneumonia. A multicenter randomized clinical trial. JAMA Intern Med 2016;176:1257-65. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27455166/
When should I consider a switch to oral antibiotics and discharge from hospital in my recently admitted elderly patient with community-acquired pneumonia (CAP)?

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. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4812076
2. Bartlett JG, Finegold SM. Anaerobic pleuropulmonary infections. Medicine (Baltimore). 1972;51(6):413-50. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4564416
3. Bartlett JG, Gorbach SL. The triple threat of aspiration pneumonia. Chest. 1975;68(4):560-6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1175415
4. Finegold SM. Aspiration pneumonia. Rev Infect Dis. 1991;13 Suppl 9:S737-42. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1925318
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. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23398871
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. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12689848
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. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9925081
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. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30464429
9. Mandell LA, Niederman MS. Aspiration Pneumonia. N Engl J Med. 2019 Feb 14;380(7):651-663. doi: 10.1056/NEJMra1714562. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30763196
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. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC187272/
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. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11871461
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. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14510245


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?

My elderly nursing home patient is admitted with recent poor oral intake, falls and oral temperatures of 99.1°-99.3° F(37.3°-37.4°C). Is she considered febrile at these temperatures?

Yes! Even though we often think of temperatures of 100.4°F (38° C) or greater as fever, older people often fail to mount an appropriate febrile response despite having a serious infection. 1

Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) guideline on evaluation of fever in older adult residents of long-term care facilities has defined fever in this population as:2

  • Single oral temperature >100° F (>37.8° C) OR
  • Repeated oral temperatures >99° F (>37.2° C) OR
  • Rectal temperatures >99.5° F (>37.5° C) OR
  • Increase in temperature of >2° F (>1.1° C) over the baseline temperature

Even at these lower than traditional thresholds for defining fever, remember that many infected elderly patients may still lack fever. In a study involving bacteremic patients, nearly 40% of those 80 years of age or older did not have fever (defined as maximum temperature over 24 hrs 100° F [37.8°C] or greater).3  

So our patient meets the criteria for fever as suggested by IDSA guidelines and, particularly in light of her recent poor intake and falls, may need evaluation for a systemic source of infection.

Now that’s interesting! Did you know that blunted febrile response of the aged to infections may be related to the inability of cytokines (eg, IL-1) to reach the central nervous system?1


  1. Norman DC. Fever in the elderly. Clin Infect Dis 2000;31:148-51. https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/31/1/148/318030
  2. High KP, Bradley SF, Gravenstein S, et al. Clinical practice guidelines for the evaluation of fever and infection in older adult residents of long-term care facilities: 2008 update by the Infectious Disease Society of America. Clin Infect Dis 2009;48:149-71. http://www.idsociety.org/uploadedFiles/IDSA/Guidelines-Patient_Care/PDF_Library/Fever%20and%20Long%20Term%20Care.pdf
  3. Manian FA. Fever, abnormal white blood cell count, neutrophilia, and elevated serum C-reactive protein in adult hospitalized patients with bacteremia. South Med J 2012;105;474-78. http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/22948327
My elderly nursing home patient is admitted with recent poor oral intake, falls and oral temperatures of 99.1°-99.3° F(37.3°-37.4°C). Is she considered febrile at these temperatures?