Clinical significance of the infection-free interval in the management of acute bacterial exacerbations of chronic bronchitis

Chest. 2005 Jun;127(6):2231-6. doi: 10.1378/chest.127.6.2231.


Rational and appropriate antibiotic use for patients with acute exacerbation of chronic bronchitis (AECB) is a major concern, as approximately half of these patients do not have a bacterial infection. Typically, the result of antimicrobial therapy for patients with acute bacterial exacerbation of chronic bronchitis (ABECB) is not eradication of the pathogen but resolution of the acute symptoms. However, the length of time before the next bacterial exacerbation can be another important variable, as the frequency of exacerbations will affect the overall health of the patient and the rate of lung deterioration over time. Clinical trials comparing antimicrobial therapies commonly measure resolution of symptoms in AECB patients as the primary end point, regardless of whether the exacerbation is documented as bacterial in nature. Ideally, the scientific approach to assessing the efficacy of antibiotic therapy for ABECB should include a measurement of acute bacterial eradication rates in patients with documented bronchial bacterial infection followed by measurement of the infection-free interval (IFI), ie, the time to the next ABECB. The use of these variables can provide a standard for comparing various antimicrobial therapies. As we learn more about how antibiotics can affect the IFI, treatment decisions should be adapted to ensure optimal management of ABECB for the long-term.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Bacterial Infections / drug therapy
  • Bacterial Infections / prevention & control*
  • Bronchitis, Chronic / diagnosis*
  • Bronchitis, Chronic / drug therapy*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / drug effects
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Recurrence
  • Risk Assessment
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents