Sulbactam-ampicillin is a combination of sulbactam, a beta-lactamase inhibitor, and ampicillin, a broad spectrum beta-lactam antibiotic. The efficacy of sulbactam-ampicillin was evaluated in the treatment of neonatal calf diarrhoea under conditions where a major proportion of the calves were excreting enterobacteria which were resistant to beta-lactam antibiotics. In a series of six studies with a common experimental design, three treatments (sulbactam-ampicillin, ampicillin alone and untreated control) were compared in over 300 Friesian and Ayrshire calves aged between three and 10 days and of known immunological status as determined by their zinc sulphate turbidity values. A mortality rate of 26.4 per cent in the negative control calves was reduced to 14.0 per cent with ampicillin alone and 9.5 per cent with sulbactam-ampicillin. The probability of diarrhoea subsequent to initiation of treatment was reduced from 0.50 in the negative control calves to 0.44 with ampicillin alone and 0.35 with sulbactam-ampicillin. The differences in mortality and diarrhoea observed between the calves treated with sulbactam-ampicillin and the calves in each of the other treatment groups were statistically significant. The superior efficacy of sulbactam-ampicillin is explained by the inhibitory effect of sulbactam on the beta-lactamases produced by resistant bacteria, thus rendering them susceptible to the ampicillin in the combination.
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