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Infective endocarditis: we could (and should) do better
  1. Paul Richard Scully1,2,
  2. Simon Woldman3,
  3. Bernard D Prendergast1
  1. 1 Cardiology Department, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  2. 2 Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, University College London, London, UK
  3. 3 Barts Heart Centre, St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Bernard D Prendergast, Cardiology Department, Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, London, United Kingdom; bernard.prendergast{at}

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Infective endocarditis (ie, the infection of a native or prosthetic heart valve, the endocardium or implanted cardiac device1) is a clinical chameleon whose epidemiology and natural history are in constant evolution, reflecting the complex interaction between an ageing population, elusive microorganisms, evolving patterns of healthcare, available therapies and the application of aggressive surgery. Despite overall advances in treatment, there is no consistent signal of falling incidence and clinical outcomes remain poor.

IE is uncommon with a generally accepted overall annual incidence of 3–10 cases per 100 000 people.1 However, recent data indicate that this incidence has increased significantly in England where IE admissions (primary ICD-10 diagnostic code I33) remained stable between 1998–1999 (26.6 cases/million) and 2009–2010 (26.9 cases/million) but rose dramatically (by 86%) to 50.0 cases/million in 2018–2019 (figure 1).2 While some of this increase may partly relate to recommendations by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in 2008 regarding the cessation of antibiotic prophylaxis in at-risk individuals undergoing selected dental and other invasive medical procedures,3 this association cannot be confirmed in the absence of microbiological data. Indeed, multiple contributory factors are likely, including (A) an ageing population, (B) increased use of both intra-cardiac (including permanent pacemakers, implantable cardioverter-defibrillators, surgical and transcatheter heart valves) and vascular devices (including those used for chronic haemodialysis), (C) epidemic levels of opioid addiction and associated injection drug use, (D) emergence of staphylococci and enterococci (neither of which are targeted by current antibiotic prophylaxis strategies) as more common causative organisms, and (E) greater clinical awareness of IE. Nevertheless, these findings are disturbing and contrast with reports of falling incidence in the USA4 and falling or more modest increases in Europe.5 European guidelines …

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  • Contributors All authors have contributed significantly to the writing of this Editorial.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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