Background: The evidence for traditionally recommended 7- to 14-day duration of antibacterial therapy for community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) is not well established.
Objectives: We endeavoured to assess the effectiveness and safety of shorter than traditionally recommended antibacterial therapy for CAP.
Methods: We performed a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing short- (< or = 7 days) versus long- (> or = 2 days difference) course therapy for CAP with the same antibacterial regimens, in the same daily dosages.
Results: Five RCTs involving adults (including outpatients and inpatients who did not require intensive care) and two RCTs involving children (aged 2-59 months, residing in developing countries) were included. All RCTs were double-blind and assessed patients with CAP of mild to moderate severity. No differences were found between short- (adults 3-7 days; children 3 days) and long- (adults 7-10 days; children 5 days) course regimens (adults - amoxicillin, cefuroxime, ceftriaxone, telithromycin and gemifloxacin; children - amoxicillin) regarding clinical success at end-of-therapy (six RCTs; 5107 patients [1095 adults, 4012 children]; fixed-effect model [FEM]; odds ratio [OR] = 0.89; 95% CI 0.74, 1.07), clinical success at late follow-up, microbiological success, relapses, mortality (seven RCTs; 5438 patients; FEM; OR = 0.57; 95% CI 0.23, 1.43), adverse events (five RCTs; 3214 patients; FEM; OR = 0. 90; 95% CI 0.72, 1.13) or withdrawals as a result of adverse events. No differences were found in subset analyses of adults or children, and of patients treated with no more than 5-day short-course regimens versus at least 7-day long-course regimens.
Conclusion: No difference was found in the effectiveness and safety of short- versus long-course antimicrobial treatment of adult and paediatric patients with CAP of mild to moderate severity.