Appropriateness of antibiotic treatment of acute respiratory tract infections in Tunisian primary care and emergency departments: a multicenter cross-sectional study

BMC Prim Care. 2022 Nov 22;23(1):295. doi: 10.1186/s12875-022-01904-7.


Background: Little is known about the pattern and appropriateness of antibiotic prescriptions in patients with acute respiratory tract infections (ARTIs).

Objective: Describe the antibiotics used to treat ARTIs in Tunisian primary care offices and emergency departments (EDs), and assess the appropriateness of their use.

Methods: It was a prospective multicenter cross-sectional observational clinical study conducted at 63 primary care offices and 6 EDS during a period of 8 months. Appropriateness of antibiotic prescription was evaluated by trained physicians using the medication appropriateness index (MAI). The MAI ratings generated a weighted score of 0 to 18 with higher scores indicating low appropriateness. The study was conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki and national and institutional standards. The study was approved by the Ethics committee of Monastir Medical Faculty.

Results: From the 12,880 patients screened we included 9886 patients. The mean age was 47.4, and 55.4% were men. The most frequent diagnosis of ARTI was were acute bronchitis (45.3%), COPD exacerbation (16.3%), tonsillitis (14.6%), rhinopharyngitis (12.2%) and sinusitis (11.5%). The most prescribed classes of antibiotics were penicillins (58.3%), fluoroquinolones (17.6%), and macrolides (16.9%). Antibiotic therapy was inappropriate in 75.5% of patients of whom 65.2% had bronchitis. 65% of patients had one or more antibiotic prescribing inappropriateness criteria as assessed by the MAI. The most frequently rated criteria were with expensiveness (75.8%) and indication (40%). Amoxicillin-clavulanic acid and levofloxacin were the most inappropriately prescribed antibiotics. History of cardiac ischemia ([OR] 3.66; 95% [CI] 2.17-10.26; p < 0.001), asthma ([OR] 3.29, 95% [CI] 1.77-6.13; p < 0.001), diabetes ([OR] 2.09, 95% [CI] 1.54-2.97; p = 0.003), history of COPD ([OR] 1.75, 95% [CI] 1.43-2.15; p < 0.001) and age > 65 years (Odds Ratio [OR] 1.35, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.16-1.58; p < 0.001) were associated with a higher likelihood of inappropriate prescribing.

Conclusion: Our findings indicate a high inappropriate use of antibiotics in ARTIs treated in in primary care and EDs. This was mostly related to antibiotic prescription in acute bronchitis and overuse of expensive broad spectrum antibiotics. Future interventions to improve antibiotic prescribing in primary care and EDs is needed.

Trial registration: the trial is registered at registry (NCT04482231).

Keywords: Acute respiratory tract infections; Antibiotics; Appropriateness.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bronchitis* / drug therapy
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Primary Health Care
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections* / drug therapy


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents

Associated data