Towards personalized guidelines: using machine-learning algorithms to guide antimicrobial selection

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2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Electronic decision support systems could reduce the use of inappropriate or ineffective empirical antibiotics. We assessed the accuracy of an open-source machine-learning algorithm trained in predicting antibiotic resistance for three Gram-negative bacterial species isolated from patients’ blood and urine within 48 h of hospital admission. Methods: This retrospective, observational study used routine clinical information collected between January 2010 and October 2016 in Birmingham, UK. Patients from whose blood or urine cultures Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae or Pseudomonas aeruginosa was isolated were identified. Their demographic, microbiology and prescribing data were used to train an open-source machine-learning algorithm—XGBoost—in predicting resistance to co-amoxiclav and piperacillin/tazobactam. Multivariate analysis was performed to identify predictors of resistance and create a point-scoring tool. The performance of both methods was compared with that of the original prescribers. Results: There were 15695 admissions. The AUC of the receiver operating characteristic curve for the point-scoring tools ranged from 0.61 to 0.67, and performed no better than medical staff in the selection of appropriate antibiotics. The machine-learning system performed statistically but marginally better (AUC 0.70) and could have reduced the use of unnecessary broad-spectrum antibiotics by as much as 40% among those given co-amoxiclav, piperacillin/tazobactam or carbapenems. A validation study is required. Conclusions: Machine-learning algorithms have the potential to help clinicians predict antimicrobial resistance in patients found to have a Gram-negative infection of blood or urine. Prospective studies are required to assess performance in an unselected patient cohort, understand the acceptability of such systems to clinicians and patients, and assess the impact on patient outcome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2677-2680
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email:

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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