Inhalation of antibiotics in cystic fibrosis

Eur Respir J. 1995 Sep;8(9):1594-604.


Aerosol administration of antipseudomonal antibiotics is commonly used in cystic fibrosis. However, its contribution to the improvement of lung function, infection and quality of life is not well-established. All articles published from 1965 until the present time concerning the inhalation of antibiotics in cystic fibrosis were collected by computerized literature search and analysed. Effective aerosol delivery is compromised by nebulizers with limited capacity to produce particles in the respirable range. Twelve studies concerning maintenance treatment were published. Four uncontrolled studies evaluating antibiotic aerosol maintenance treatment in stable patients indicated a beneficial effect in terms of reducing the number of hospital admissions. Eight placebo-controlled studies were found; six of these showed a significant improvement of lung function in the treatment group. Four studies showed a reduction of the number of hospital admissions. In some studies, there was a considerable negative effect of the nebulized placebo solution on the outcome, probably due to the improper choice of its osmolarity. Studies with antibiotic aerosols as adjunct to intravenous therapy in cystic fibrosis patients with an acute exacerbation showed no enhancement of the clinical effects of the intravenous antibiotic by the aerosol; sputum colony counts, however, were lower. Toxicity studies carried out so far have shown no renal or ototoxicity; however, long-term toxicity studies still have to be performed using higher dosages. Introduction or selection of resistant bacteria is relatively rare, but remains a matter of concern. Aerosol maintenance treatment with an appropriate antibiotic in high enough dosage can be recommended for patients with cystic fibrosis chronically infected with P. aeruginosa, and may improve lung function and reduce the number of hospital admissions due to an acute exacerbation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Aerosols
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cystic Fibrosis / complications
  • Cystic Fibrosis / drug therapy*
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial
  • Humans
  • Pseudomonas Infections / etiology
  • Pseudomonas Infections / prevention & control*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / etiology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / prevention & control*


  • Aerosols
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents