Purpose: There is little consensus on the most appropriate duration of antibiotic treatment for community-acquired pneumonia. The goal of this study is to systematically review randomized controlled trials comparing short-course and extended-course antibiotic regimens for community-acquired pneumonia.
Methods: We searched MEDLINE, Embase, and CENTRAL, and reviewed reference lists from 1980 through June 2006. Studies were included if they were randomized controlled trials that compared short-course (7 days or less) versus extended-course (>7 days) antibiotic monotherapy for community-acquired pneumonia in adults. The primary outcome measure was failure to achieve clinical improvement.
Results: We found 15 randomized controlled trials matching our inclusion and exclusion criteria comprising 2796 total subjects. Short-course regimens primarily studied the use of azithromycin (n=10), but trials examining beta-lactams (n=2), fluoroquinolones (n=2), and ketolides (n=1) were found as well. Of the extended-course regimens, 3 studies utilized the same antibiotic, whereas 9 involved an antibiotic of the same class. Overall, there was no difference in the risk of clinical failure between the short-course and extended-course regimens (0.89, 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.78-1.02). In addition, there were no differences in the risk of mortality (0.81, 95% CI, 0.46-1.43) or bacteriologic eradication (1.11, 95% CI, 0.76-1.62). In subgroup analyses, there was a trend toward favorable clinical efficacy for the short-course regimens in all antibiotic classes (range of relative risk, 0.88-0.94).
Conclusions: The available studies suggest that adults with mild to moderate community-acquired pneumonia can be safely and effectively treated with an antibiotic regimen of 7 days or less. Reduction in patient exposure to antibiotics may limit the increasing rates of antimicrobial drug resistance, decrease cost, and improve patient adherence and tolerability.