The efficacy of azithromycin and doxycycline for the treatment of rectal chlamydia infection: a systematic review and meta-analysis

J Antimicrob Chemother. 2015 May;70(5):1290-7. doi: 10.1093/jac/dku574. Epub 2015 Jan 29.


Background: There are increasing concerns about treatment failure following treatment for rectal chlamydia with 1 g of azithromycin. A systematic review and meta-analysis was conducted to investigate the efficacy of 1 g of azithromycin as a single dose or 100 mg of doxycycline twice daily for 7 days for the treatment of rectal chlamydia.

Methods: Medline, Embase, PubMed, Cochrane Controlled Trials Register, Australia New Zealand Clinical Trial Register and were searched to the end of April 2014. Studies using 1 g of azithromycin or 7 days of doxycycline for the treatment of rectal chlamydia were eligible. Gender, diagnostic test, serovar, symptomatic status, other sexually transmitted infections, follow-up time, attrition and microbial cure were extracted. Meta-analysis was used to calculate pooled (i) azithromycin and doxycycline efficacy and (ii) efficacy difference.

Results: All eight included studies were observational. The random-effects pooled efficacy for azithromycin (based on eight studies) was 82.9% (95% CI 76.0%-89.8%; I(2) = 71.0%; P < 0.01) and for doxycycline (based on five studies) was 99.6% (95% CI 98.6%-100%; I(2) = 0%; P = 0.571), resulting in a random-effects pooled efficacy difference (based on five studies) of 19.9% (95% CI 11.4%-28.3%; I(2) = 48.5%; P = 0.101) in favour of doxycycline.

Conclusions: The efficacy of single-dose azithromycin may be considerably lower than 1 week of doxycycline for treating rectal chlamydia. However, the available evidence is very poor. Robust randomized controlled trials are urgently required.

Keywords: azithromycin; doxycycline; meta-analysis; rectal chlamydia; treatment efficacy.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Azithromycin / administration & dosage*
  • Chlamydia / drug effects*
  • Chlamydia Infections / drug therapy*
  • Doxycycline / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Rectal Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Azithromycin
  • Doxycycline