Objective: To investigate the effect of long-term antibiotic treatment in patients with reactive arthritis (ReA) and undifferentiated oligoarthritis.
Methods: One hundred twenty-six patients were treated with ciprofloxacin (500 mg twice a day) or placebo for 3 months, in a double-blind, randomized study. Of these patients, 104 (48 treated with ciprofloxacin and 56 treated with placebo) were valid for clinical evaluation: 55 were diagnosed as having ReA with a preceding symptomatic urogenic or enteric infection and 49 as having undifferentiated oligoarthritis. These 2 groups were randomized separately. The triggering bacterium was sought by serology and/or culture. The percentage of patients in remission after 3 months of treatment was chosen as the primary efficacy parameter.
Results: A triggering bacterium could be identified in 52 patients (50%): Chlamydia trachomatis in 13, Yersinia in 14, and Salmonella in 25. No patient was positive for Campylobacter jejuni or for Shigella. No difference in outcome was found between treatment with ciprofloxacin or placebo in the whole group or in subgroups of patients with ReA or undifferentiated oligoarthritis. No difference was seen in patients with a disease duration <3 months. Ciprofloxacin was not effective in Yersinia- or Salmonella-induced arthritis but seemed to be better than placebo in Chlamydia-induced arthritis. This difference was not significant, however, which might be due to the small sample size.
Conclusion: Long-term treatment of ReA with ciprofloxacin is not effective; however, it might be useful in the subgroup of patients who have Chlamydia-induced arthritis. This has to be proven in a bigger study focusing on patients with Chlamydia-induced arthritis.