The risk of infection in burn patients, which is proportional to the extent of burn, reflects the combined effect of impairment of all aspects of the host defense system and microbial factors. The microbial flora colonizing the burn wound changes with time following injury and provides the organisms causing infections in burn patients. The temporal pattern of the predominant gram-negative organisms causing infections in a burn unit resembles that of a succession of mini-epidemics necessitating an active program of microbial surveillance to guide treatment of infections. Topical chemotherapy has significantly reduced the occurrence of invasive burn wound infections, but microbial control is imperfect arid the burn wound, as well as the patient as a whole, must be closely monitored (using wound biopsies as indicated) to diagnose and treat infection in a timely manner. The treatment of burn wound infections is guided by extent arid depth of microbial invasion, density of microorganisms, and systemic changes. As a manifestation of immunologic impairment, infection in sites other than the burn wound remains the most frequent cause of death in burn patients. The use of broad spectrum serologic agents to enhance immuno-competence in extensively burned patients may reduce the occurrence of life threatening opportunistic infections.
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