The accuracy of Gram stain of respiratory specimens in excluding Staphylococcus aureus in ventilator-associated pneumonia

Tamar Gottesman, Orit Yossepowitch, Evgenia Lerner, Orna Schwartz-Harari, Arie Soroksky, Daniel Yekutieli, Michael Dan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To evaluate the Gram stain of deep tracheal aspirate as a tool to direct empiric antibiotic therapy, and more specifically as a tool to exclude the need for empiric antibiotic coverage against Staphylococcus aureus in ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP). Design: A prospective, single-center, observational, cohort study. Setting: All wards at a community hospital. Patients: Adult patients requiring mechanical ventilation, identified as having VAP in a 54-month prospective surveillance database. Interventions: Sampling of lower airway secretions by deep endotracheal aspiration was taken from each patient who developed VAP. Samples were sent immediately for Gram stain and qualitative bacterial cultures. Demographic and relevant clinical data were collected; Gram stain, culture, and antibiotic susceptibility results were documented; and outcome was followed prospectively. Measurements and Main Results: The analysis included 114 consecutive patients with 115 episodes of VAP from June 2007 to January 2012. Sensitivity of Gram stain compared with culture was 90.47% for gram-positive cocci, 69.6% for gram-negative rods, and 50% for sterile cultures. Specificity was 82.5%, 77.8%, and 79%, respectively. Negative predictive value was high for gram-positive cocci (97%) and sterile cultures (96%) but low for gram-negative rods (20%). Acinetobacter baumanii (45%) and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (38 %) were the prevailing isolates. S aureus was found in 18.3% of the patients. Most isolates were multiresistant. Conclusions: Absence of gram-positive bacteria on Gram stain had a high negative predictive value. These data can be used to narrow the initial empiric antibiotic regimen and to avoid unnecessary exposure of patients to vancomycin and other antistaphyloccocal agents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)739-742
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Critical Care
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2014


  • Gram stain
  • Intensive care unit
  • Mechanical ventilation
  • Nosocomial infection
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Ventilator-associated pneumonia


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