Comparative Effectiveness of Antibiotic Treatment Duration in Children With Pyelonephritis

JAMA Netw Open. 2020 May 1;3(5):e203951. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.3951.


Importance: National guidelines recommend treating children with pyelonephritis for 7 to 14 days of antibiotic therapy, yet data are lacking to suggest a more precise treatment duration.

Objective: To compare the clinical outcomes of children receiving a short-course vs a prolonged-course of antibiotic treatment for pyelonephritis.

Design, setting, and participants: Retrospective observational study using inverse probability of treatment weighted propensity score analysis of data from 5 hospitals in Maryland between July 1, 2016, and October 1, 2018. Participants were children aged 6 months to 18 years with a urine culture growing Escherichia coli, Klebsiella species, or Proteus mirabilis with laboratory and clinical criteria for pyelonephritis.

Exposures: Treatment of pyelonephritis with a short-course (6 to 9 days) vs a prolonged-course (10 or more days) of antibiotics.

Main outcomes and measures: Composite outcome of treatment failure within 30 days of completing antibiotic therapy: (a) unanticipated emergency department or outpatient visits related to urinary tract infection symptoms, (b) hospital readmission related to UTI symptoms, (c) prolongation of the planned, initial antibiotic treatment course, or (d) death. A subsequent urinary tract infection caused by a drug-resistant bacteria within 30 days was a secondary outcome.

Results: Of 791 children who met study eligibility criteria (mean [SD] age 9.2 [6.3] years; 672 [85.0%]) were girls, 297 patients (37.5%) were prescribed a short-course and 494 patients (62.5%) were prescribed a prolonged-course of antibiotics. The median duration of short-course therapy was 8 days (interquartile range, 7-8 days), and the median duration of prolonged-course therapy was 11 days (interquartile range, 11-12 days). Baseline characteristics were similar between the groups in the inverse probability of treatment weighted cohort. There were 79 children (10.1%) who experienced treatment failure. The odds of treatment failure were similar for patients prescribed a short-course vs a prolonged-course of antibiotics (11.2% vs 9.4%; odds ratio, 1.22; 95% CI, 0.75-1.98). There was no significant difference in the odds of a drug-resistant uropathogen for patients with a subsequent urinary tract infection within 30 days when prescribed a short-courses vs prolonged-course of antibiotics (40% vs 64%; odds ratio, 0.36; 95% CI, 0.09-1.43).

Conclusions and relevance: The study findings suggest that short-course antibiotic therapy may be as effective as prolonged-courses for children with pyelonephritis, and may mitigate the risk of future drug-resistant urinary tract infections. Additional studies are needed to confirm these findings.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Child Health Services
  • Child, Preschool
  • District of Columbia
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Maryland
  • Pyelonephritis / drug therapy*
  • Pyelonephritis / microbiology
  • Pyelonephritis / urine
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents