Background: High-quality evidence supporting a community-based treatment protocol for children with severe acute malnutrition, including routine antibiotic use at admission to a nutritional treatment program, remains limited. In view of the costs and consequences of emerging resistance associated with routine antibiotic use, more evidence is required to support this practice.
Methods: In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in Niger, we randomly assigned children who were 6 to 59 months of age and had uncomplicated severe acute malnutrition to receive amoxicillin or placebo for 7 days. The primary outcome was nutritional recovery at or before week 8.
Results: A total of 2412 children underwent randomization, and 2399 children were included in the analysis. Nutritional recovery occurred in 65.9% of children in the amoxicillin group (790 of 1199) and in 62.7% of children in the placebo group (752 of 1200). There was no significant difference in the likelihood of nutritional recovery (risk ratio for amoxicillin vs. placebo, 1.05; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.99 to 1.12; P=0.10). In secondary analyses, amoxicillin decreased the risk of transfer to inpatient care by 14% (26.4% in the amoxicillin group vs. 30.7% in the placebo group; risk ratio, 0.86; 95% CI, 0.76 to 0.98; P=0.02).
Conclusions: We found no benefit of routine antibiotic use with respect to nutritional recovery from uncomplicated severe acute malnutrition in Niger. In regions with adequate infrastructure for surveillance and management of complications, health care facilities could consider eliminating the routine use of antibiotics in protocols for the treatment of uncomplicated severe acute malnutrition. (Funded by Médecins sans Frontières Operational Center Paris; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01613547.).