Background: Mycoplasma pneumoniae (M. pneumoniae) is widely recognised as an important cause of community-acquired lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI) in children. Pulmonary manifestations are typically tracheobronchitis or pneumonia but M. pneumoniae is also implicated in wheezing episodes in both asthmatic and non-asthmatic individuals. Although antibiotics are used to treat LRTIs, a review of several major textbooks offers conflicting advice for using antibiotics in the management of M. pneumoniae LRTI in children.
Objectives: To determine whether antibiotics are effective in the treatment of childhood LRTI secondary to M. pneumoniae infections acquired in the community.
Search methods: We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library 2012, Issue 2), which contains the Cochrane Acute Respiratory Infections Group's Specialised Register, MEDLINE (1966 to February week 5, 2012) and EMBASE (1980 to March 2012).
Selection criteria: Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing antibiotics commonly used for treating M. pneumoniae (i.e. macrolide, tetracycline or quinolone classes) versus placebo, or antibiotics from any other class in the treatment of children under 18 years of age with community-acquired LRTI secondary to M. pneumoniae.
Data collection and analysis: The review authors independently selected trials for inclusion and assessed methodological quality. We extracted and analysed relevant data separately. We resolved disagreements by consensus.
Main results: A total of 1912 children were enrolled from seven studies. Data interpretation was limited by the inability to extract data that referred to children with M. pneumoniae. In most studies, clinical response did not differ between children randomised to a macrolide antibiotic and children randomised to a non-macrolide antibiotic. In one controlled study (of children with recurrent respiratory infections, whose acute LRTI was associated with Mycoplasma, Chlamydia or both by polymerase chain reaction, and/or paired sera) 100% of children treated with azithromycin had clinical resolution of their illness compared to 77% not treated with azithromycin at one month.
Authors' conclusions: There is insufficient evidence to draw any specific conclusions about the efficacy of antibiotics for this condition in children (although one trial suggests macrolides may be efficacious in some children with LRTI secondary to Mycoplasma). The use of antibiotics has to be balanced with possible adverse events. There is still a need for high quality, double-blinded RCTs to assess the efficacy and safety of antibiotics for LRTI secondary to M. pneumoniae in children.