Nebulised anti-pseudomonal antibiotics for cystic fibrosis

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2003:(3):CD001021. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD001021.


Background: Persistent infection by Pseudomonas aeruginosa contributes to lung damage, resulting in illness and death in people with cystic fibrosis (CF). Nebulised antibiotics are commonly used to treat this infection.

Objectives: To examine the evidence that nebulised anti-pseudomonal antibiotic treatment in people with CF reduces frequency of exacerbations of infection, improves lung function, quality of life and survival. To examine adverse effects of nebulised anti-pseudomonal antibiotic treatment.

Search strategy: Trials were identified from the Cochrane Cystic Fibrosis and Genetic Disorders Group clinical trials register. Companies that marketed nebulised anti-pseudomonal antibiotics were contacted for information on unpublished trials. Most recent search of the Group's trials register: August 2002.

Selection criteria: Trials were selected if, nebulised anti-pseudomonal antibiotics treatment was used for four weeks or more in people with CF, allocation to treatment was randomised or quasi-randomised, and there was a placebo or a no placebo control group or another nebulised antibiotic comparison.

Data collection and analysis: For the first version of this review, two reviewers independently selected and judged the quality of, the trials to be included in the review. One reviewer extracted data from these trials and performed all tasks for the updated version of the review.

Main results: Out of 33 trials identified, there were 11, with 873 participants, that met the inclusion criteria. Ten trials with 758 participants compared a nebulised anti-pseudomonal antibiotic with placebo or usual treatment. One of these trials accounted for 68% of the total participants and seven of these trials used a cross-over design. Tobramycin was studied in four trials and follow up ranged from 1 to 32 months. Lung function, measured as forced expired volume in one second (FEV1) was better in the treated group than in control group in nine of these. Resistance to antibiotics increased more in the antibiotic treated group than in placebo group. Tinnitus and voice alteration were more frequent with tobramycin than placebo. One short-term trial of one month, with 115 participants, compared tobramycin and colistin, and showed a trend towards greater improvement in FEV1 in the tobramycin group.

Reviewer's conclusions: Nebulised anti-pseudomonal antibiotic treatment improves lung function. However, more evidence, from longer duration trials, is needed to determine if this benefit is maintained as well as to determine the significance of development of antibiotic resistant organisms. There is insufficient evidence for recommendations about type of drug and dose regimens.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Administration, Intranasal
  • Aerosols
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Cystic Fibrosis / complications*
  • Cystic Fibrosis / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers
  • Pseudomonas Infections / etiology
  • Pseudomonas Infections / prevention & control*
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / etiology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / prevention & control*


  • Aerosols
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents