Diabetic foot infection: Antibiotic therapy and good practice recommendations

Nicholas D. Barwell (Lead / Corresponding author), Marion C. Devers, Brian Kennon, Helen E. Hopkinson, Claire McDougall, Matthew J. Young, Hannah M. A. Robertson, Duncan Stang, Stephanie J. Dancer, Ronald Andrew Seaton, Graham P. Leese, on behalf of the Scottish Diabetes Foot Action Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Healthcare events related to diabetic foot disease carry a burden of morbidity, mortality and economic cost. Prompt identification of clinical infection with appropriate tissue sampling limits use of broad spectrum empirical antibiotics and improves antibiotic stewardship. Staphylococcus aureus remains the commonest infecting organism and high-dose flucloxacillin remains the empirical antibiotic of choice for antibiotic naïve patients. Barriers to microbe-specific treatment include: adequate tissue sampling, delays in culture results, drug allergies and the emergence of multidrug-resistant organisms which can complicate the choice of targeted antibiotics. Even appropriate antibiotic treatment carries a risk of adverse events including the selection of resistant organisms.

Aims: Multidisciplinary clinical assessment of a diabetic foot infection is supported by the use of appropriate imaging modalities and deep tissue sampling, both of which are encouraged to enhance sampling accuracy. Narrow-spectrum, high dose, short duration antimicrobial therapy is ideal. Further clarity in these areas would be of benefit to clinicians involved in management of diabetic foot infections.

Methods: A combination of literature review with expert discussion was used to generate consensus on management of diabetic foot infection, with a specific focus on empirical antimicrobial therapy.

Results: Gram positive organisms represent the commonest pathogens in diabetic foot infection. However there are developing challenges in antimicrobial resistance and antibiotic availability.

Discussion: Recommendations for empirical therapy, including the choice of alternative oral agents and use of outpatient antibiotics would be of benefit to those involved in diabetic foot care.

Conclusion: This paper provides advice on empirical antibiotic therapy that may be used as a framework for local guideline development to support clinicians in the management of diabetic foot infection.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13006
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Clinical Practice
Issue number10
Early online date11 Sep 2017
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2017


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