Sepsis is life-threatening organ dysfunction caused by a dysregulated host response to infection. Early recognition and treatment are the cornerstones of management.

Review of the English-language literature.

For both sepsis and septic shock "antimicrobials [should be] be initiated as soon as possible and within one hour" (Surviving Sepsis Campaign). The risk of progression from severe sepsis to septic shock increases 8% for each hour before antibiotics are started. Selection of antimicrobial agents is based on a combination of patient factors, predicted infecting organism(s), and local microbial resistance patterns. The initial drugs should have activity against typical gram-positive and gram-negative causative micro-organisms. Anaerobic coverage should be provided for intra-abdominal infections or others where anaerobes are significant pathogens. Empiric antifungal or antiviral therapy may be warranted. For patients with healthcare-associated infections, resistant micro-organisms will further complicate the choice of empiric antimicrobials. Recommendations are given for specific infections.

Early administration of broad-spectrum antimicrobial drugs is one of the most important, if not the most important, treatment for patients with sepsis or septic shock. Drugs should be initiated as soon as possible, and the choice of should take into account patient factors, common local pathogens, hospital antibiograms and resistance patterns, and the suspected source of infection. Antimicrobial agent therapy should be de-escalated as soon as possible.

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