Objectives: Nitrofurantoin's use has increased exponentially since recent guidelines repositioned it as first-line therapy for uncomplicated lower urinary tract infection (UTI). We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to assess nitrofurantoin's efficacy and toxicity in the treatment of lower UTI.
Methods: We performed a systematic review of all human controlled clinical trials published from 1946 to 2014 and assessing short-term (≤14 days) nitrofurantoin for lower UTI. Meta-analyses assessing efficacy and adverse events were conducted on randomized trials.
Results: Twenty-seven controlled trials including 4807 patients fulfilled entry criteria; most were conducted between the 1970s and 1990s and were at increased risk for various biases. Nitrofurantoin appears to have good clinical and microbiological efficacy for UTI caused by common uropathogens, with clinical cure rates varying between 79% and 92%. The most methodologically robust studies surveyed indicate overall equivalence between nitrofurantoin when given for 5 or 7 days and trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, ciprofloxacin and amoxicillin. Meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials confirmed equivalence in clinical cure, but indicated a slight advantage to comparator drugs in microbiological efficacy (risk ratio 0.93, 95% CI 0.89-0.97). If given for only 3 days, nitrofurantoin's clinical efficacy was diminished (61%-70%). Toxicity was infrequent (5%-16% in the 17 reporting studies), mild, reversible and predominantly gastrointestinal; meta-analyses confirmed no difference between nitrofurantoin and comparators. Hypersensitivity reactions such as pulmonary fibrosis and hepatotoxicity were not observed. Acquisition of resistance to nitrofurantoin is still relatively rare.
Conclusions: When given short term for lower UTI, nitrofurantoin has good clinical and microbiological efficacy; toxicity is mild and predominantly gastrointestinal.
Keywords: antibacterial; antibiotic; efficacy; toxicity; urinary tract infections.
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