Effect of Topical Antibiotics on Duration of Acute Infective Conjunctivitis in Children: A Randomized Clinical Trial and a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

JAMA Netw Open. 2022 Oct 3;5(10):e2234459. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.34459.


Importance: Although topical antibiotics are often prescribed for treating acute infective conjunctivitis in children, their efficacy is uncertain.

Objective: To assess the efficacy of topical antibiotic therapy for acute infective conjunctivitis.

Design, setting, and participants: A randomized clinical trial was conducted in primary health care in Oulu, Finland, from October 15, 2014, to February 7, 2020. Children aged 6 months to 7 years with acute infective conjunctivitis were eligible for enrollment. The participants were followed up for 14 days. A subsequent meta-analysis included the present trial and 3 previous randomized clinical trials enrolling pediatric patients aged 1 month to 18 years with acute infective conjunctivitis.

Interventions: Participants in the present randomized clinical trial were randomized to moxifloxacin eye drops, placebo eye drops, or no intervention.

Main outcomes and measures: The primary outcome in the present randomized clinical trial was time to clinical cure (in days); in the meta-analysis, the primary outcome was the proportion of participants with conjunctival symptoms on days 3 to 6.

Results: The randomized clinical trial included 88 participants (46 [52%] girls), of whom 30 were randomized to moxifloxacin eye drops (mean [SD] age, 2.8 [1.6] years), 27 to placebo eye drops (mean [SD], age 3.0 [1.3] years), and 31 to no intervention (mean [SD] age, 3.2 [1.8] years). The time to clinical cure was significantly shorter in the moxifloxacin eye drop group than in the no intervention group (3.8 vs 5.7 days; difference, -1.9 days; 95% CI, -3.7 to -0.1 days; P = .04), while in the survival analysis both moxifloxacin and placebo eye drops significantly shortened the time to clinical cure relative to no intervention. In the meta-analysis, a total of 584 children were randomized (300 to topical antibiotics and 284 to a placebo), and the use of topical antibiotics was associated with a significant reduction in the proportion of children who had symptoms of conjunctivitis on days 3 to 6 compared with placebo eye drops (odds ratio, 0.59; 95% CI, 0.39 to 0.91).

Conclusions and relevance: In this randomized clinical trial and systematic review and meta-analysis, topical antibiotics were associated with significantly shorter durations of conjunctival symptoms in children with acute infective conjunctivitis.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrialsRegister.eu Identifier: 2013-005623-16.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Conjunctivitis* / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Moxifloxacin / therapeutic use
  • Ophthalmic Solutions / therapeutic use
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Ophthalmic Solutions
  • Moxifloxacin