Background: Macrolides have long been recognised to exert immunomodulary and anti-inflammatory actions. They are able to suppress the "cytokine storm" of inflammation and to confer an additional clinical benefit through their immunomodulatory properties.
Methods: A search of electronic journal articles was performed using combinations of the following keywords: macrolides, COPD, asthma, bronchitis, bronchiolitis obliterans, cystic fibrosis, immunomodulation, anti-inflammatory effect, diabetes, side effects and systemic diseases.
Results: Macrolide effects are time- and dose-dependent, and the mechanisms underlying these effects remain incompletely understood. Both in vitro and in vivo studies have provided ample evidence of their immunomodulary and anti-inflammatory actions. Importantly, this class of antibiotics is efficacious with respect to controlling exacerbations of underlying respiratory problems, such as cystic fibrosis, asthma, bronchiectasis, panbrochiolitis and cryptogenic organising pneumonia. Macrolides have also been reported to reduce airway hyper-responsiveness and improve pulmonary function.
Conclusion: This review provides an overview on the properties of macrolides (erythromycin, clarithromycin, roxithromycin, azithromycin), their efficacy in various respiratory diseases and their adverse effects.