Bacterial conjunctivitis

BMJ Clin Evid. 2010 Mar 15:2010:0704.


Introduction: Most cases of conjunctivitis in adults are probably due to viral infection, but children are more likely to develop bacterial conjunctivitis than they are viral forms. The main bacterial pathogens are Haemophilus influenzae and Streptococcus pneumoniae in adults and children, and Moraxella catarrhalis in children. Contact lens wearers may be more likely to develop gram-negative infections. Bacterial keratitis occurs in up to 30 per 100,000 contact lens wearers.

Methods and outcomes: We conducted a systematic review and aimed to answer the following clinical questions: What are the effects of empirical treatment in adults and children with suspected bacterial conjunctivitis? What are the effects of treatment in adults and children with bacteriologically confirmed bacterial conjunctivitis? What are the effects of treatment in adults and children with clinically confirmed gonococcal conjunctivitis? We searched: Medline, Embase, The Cochrane Library, and other important databases up to July 2009 (Clinical Evidence reviews are updated periodically; please check our website for the most up-to-date version of this review). We included harms alerts from relevant organisations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Results: We found 40 systematic reviews, RCTs, or observational studies that met our inclusion criteria. We performed a GRADE evaluation of the quality of evidence for interventions.

Conclusions: In this systematic review we present information relating to the effectiveness and safety of the following interventions: ocular decongestants; oral antibiotics; parenteral antibiotics; saline; topical antibiotics; and warm compresses.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage
  • Conjunctivitis, Bacterial* / drug therapy
  • Gonorrhea / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Moraxella catarrhalis
  • Ophthalmic Solutions* / administration & dosage


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Ophthalmic Solutions