Background: The aim of this study of 352 patients, 1-14 years of age, with acute respiratory infections and a history of recurrent respiratory tract infections (RRTIs), and 208 healthy subjects was to evaluate whether Mycoplasma pneumoniae and Chlamydia pneumoniae played a role in causing acute respiratory episodes among children with RRTIs and whether specific antibiotic treatment for these bacteria could improve the acute episodes and reduce recurrences.
Methods: The patients were blindly randomized to receive azithromycin (10 mg/kg/d for 3 days weekly, for 3 weeks) together with symptom-specific agents or symptom-specific agents alone. Acute M. pneumoniae and/or C. pneumoniae infection was diagnosed if the child had a significant antibody response in paired sera and/or if the DNA of the bacteria was detected in nasopharyngeal aspirates.
Results: Atypical bacterial infections were identified for 190 patients (54.0%) and 8 healthy control subjects (3.8%; P < 0.0001). Short term (1-month) clinical success was significantly more frequent among the patients who had received azithromycin together with symptom-specific agents than among those who had received symptom-specific agents alone, but the difference was significant only for the group of patients with atypical bacteria. In contrast, long term (6-month) clinical success was significantly more frequent among the patients who had received azithromycin in addition to symptom-specific agents, regardless of whether they experienced infections with atypical bacteria or other pathogens, although positive outcomes were significantly more frequent among those with atypical bacteria.
Conclusions: Atypical bacteria seem to play a role among children with RRTIs, and prolonged azithromycin therapy can significantly improve the acute episodes and reduce the risk of recurrences.