Update on the combination effect of macrolide antibiotics in community-acquired pneumonia

Respir Investig. 2015 Sep;53(5):201-9. doi: 10.1016/j.resinv.2015.05.003. Epub 2015 Aug 13.


Community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) is a leading cause of death from an infectious cause worldwide. Guideline-concordant antibiotic therapy initiated in a timely manner is associated with improved treatment responses and patient outcomes. In the post-antibiotic era, much of the morbidity and mortality of CAP is as a result of the interaction between bacterial virulence factors and host immune responses. In patients with severe CAP, or who are critically ill, there is a lot of emerging observational evidence demonstrating improved survival rates when treatment using combination therapy with a β-lactam and a macrolide is initiated, as compared to other antibiotic regimes without a macrolide. Macrolides in combination with a β-lactam antibiotic provide broader coverage for the atypical organisms implicated in CAP, and may contribute to antibacterial synergism. However, it has been postulated that the documented immunomodulatory effects of macrolides are the primary mechanism for improved patient outcomes through attenuation of bacterial virulence factors and host systemic inflammatory responses. Despite concerns regarding the limitations of observational evidence and the lack of confirmatory randomized controlled trials, the potential magnitude of mortality benefits estimated at 20-50% cannot be overlooked. In light of recent data from a number of trials showing that combination treatment with a macrolide and a suitable second agent is justified in all patients with severe CAP, such treatment should be obligatory for those admitted to an intensive care setting.

Keywords: Combination; Community-acquired-pneumonia; Macrolides; Sepsis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Community-Acquired Infections / drug therapy*
  • Community-Acquired Infections / immunology
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunomodulation / drug effects
  • Macrolides / administration & dosage*
  • Macrolides / pharmacology
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / drug therapy*
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / immunology
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • beta-Lactams / administration & dosage


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Macrolides
  • beta-Lactams