Inhaled antibiotics for treatment of adults with non-cystic fibrosis bronchiectasis: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Eur J Intern Med. 2021 Aug;90:77-88. doi: 10.1016/j.ejim.2021.04.009. Epub 2021 May 2.


Background: Inhaled antibiotics (IA) in non-cystic fibrosis bronchiectasis (NCFB) are recommended by some clinical practice guidelines for prevention or treatment of NCFB exacerbations.

Methods: We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis to evaluate the efficacy and safety of IA use for treatment of adults with NCFB and Pseudomonas aeruginosa chronic bronchial infection. The search was performed in the Cochrane Library, PubMed, and Web of Science databases from 2000 to 2019. Studies of IA for treatment of stable or exacerbated NCFB adults (≥18 years) with P. aeruginosa infection were considered eligible. PROSPERO Registration number: CRD42019136154.

Results: Twelve trials (2476 participants) were included. IA therapy increased P. aeruginosa eradication from sputum in patients with exacerbations (OR: 3.19, 95%CI: 1.70-5.99) with similar effects on stable patients (OR: 7.22, 95%CI: 2.81-18.59), and a trend to reduced emergence of new respiratory pathogens (OR: 0.58, 95%CI: 0.28-1.18). IA achieved significant reduced exacerbation rates (RR: 0.90; 95%CI: 0.82-0.98) in stable patients, with a number needed to treat (NNT) of 59, but no significant changes in FEV1, mortality, hospitalizations or quality of life were identified. In stable patients, IA use increased antimicrobial resistance (RR: 2.10, 95%CI: 1.35-3.27) at the end of therapy, with a number needed to treat of 6.

Conclusions: IA therapy achieved a statistically significant eradication of P. aeruginosa from sputum, with a 10% reduction of exacerbations in stable patients. This effect has to be balanced with significant increases in antimicrobial resistance. Our meta-analysis failed to show a significant benefit in terms of patient-centered outcomes.

Keywords: Aerosolized antibiotics; Bronchiectasis; Bronchospasm; Chronic respiratory tract infection; Non-cystic fibrosis; P. aeruginosa.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bronchiectasis* / drug therapy
  • Cystic Fibrosis*
  • Humans
  • Pseudomonas Infections* / drug therapy
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Quality of Life


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents