Background: Giardia lamblia is a common cause of diarrhoea in returning travellers. Failure of the recommended first-line treatment, metronidazole, has frequently been observed. Recommendations for treatment of metronidazole-refractory giardiasis lack clarity and evidence.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective data analysis of returned travellers with confirmed giardiasis at the Bernhard-Nocht-Clinic in Hamburg, Germany, between 2007 and 2016.
Results: We identified 339 cases of giardiasis, mostly acquired in South Asia (n = 157). 308 patients received metronidazole as first-line treatment, leading to treatment failure in 93 cases. Statistical analysis suggested by far the highest risk of metronidazole treatment failure for travellers returning from South Asia (Odds Ratio 8.73). Second-line therapy consisted of various different therapy regimens. Combination therapy as second-line treatment seemed to be more effective than monotherapy. A repeat course of metronidazole proved to be futile.
Conclusion: This study reveals a strikingly low effectiveness of metronidazole, especially in patients returning from South Asia. Second-line treatment showed inconsistency of regimens and yielded unsatisfactory results. These findings require reconsideration of treatment strategies for giardiasis. Large prospective trials are urgently needed to assess new first-line treatment options and to help implement advice for effective, agreed second-line treatment strategies. Translational projects should be created to link the understanding of resistance mechanisms with epidemiological data and clinical outcome.
Keywords: Giardia duodenalis; Giardia intestinalis; Giardia lamblia; Nitroimidazole resistance; Travellers' diarrhoea; Treatment failure.
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