Azithromycin versus penicillin V for treatment of acute group A streptococcal pharyngitis

Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2002 Apr;21(4):304-8. doi: 10.1097/00006454-200204000-00009.


Objective: To compare a 3-day azithromycin vs. a 10-day penicillin V regimen for treatment of acute group A streptococcal (GAS) pharyngitis in children and to determine whether viral infection and/or pharyngeal GAS carriage in patients and adult contacts affect clinical and bacteriologic efficacy.

Methods: This multicenter, randomized, comparative, open label study compared 3-day, once daily 10 mg/kg azithromycin oral suspension with a 10-day regimen of 100,000 IU/kg/day penicillin V oral suspension in three divided doses in children with acute GAS pharyngitis. Clinical and bacteriologic efficacy and tolerability of the antibiotics were evaluated. Recurrence of symptoms and infection was monitored for 6 months.

Results: In total, 292 children (age range, 2 to 12 years) received at least one dose of study medication. Clinical success (cure/improvement) with either antibiotic was similar at the end of therapy (Day 14; azithromycin, 95%; penicillin V, 97%) and at Day 28 (azithromycin, 94%; penicillin V, 95%). Bacteriologic eradication was significantly less with azithromycin than with penicillin V at Day 14 (azithromycin, 38%; penicillin V, 81%; P < 0.001) and at Day 28 (azithromycin, 31%; penicillin V, 68%; P < 0.001). There was no associated increase in GAS-related sequelae. The lower incidence of bacteriologic eradication with azithromycin was not the result of possible concomitant viral infections in the patients, GAS carriage in one parent/guardian or any reduced susceptibility in pretreatment GAS isolates. Both antibiotics were equally well-tolerated.

Conclusions: Treatment with 3-day, once daily 10 mg/kg azithromycin for GAS pharyngitis is associated with similar high levels of clinical efficacy, but lower levels of bacteriologic eradication, than with 10-day 100,000 IU/kg/day penicillin V.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Azithromycin / administration & dosage*
  • Azithromycin / adverse effects
  • Azithromycin / pharmacology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Penicillin V / administration & dosage*
  • Penicillin V / pharmacology*
  • Penicillins / administration & dosage*
  • Penicillins / pharmacology*
  • Pharyngitis / drug therapy*
  • Pharyngitis / microbiology
  • Streptococcal Infections / drug therapy*
  • Streptococcal Infections / microbiology
  • Streptococcus pyogenes / isolation & purification
  • Streptococcus pyogenes / pathogenicity*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Penicillins
  • Azithromycin
  • Penicillin V