Efficacy of short-term treatment of pertussis with clarithromycin and azithromycin

J Pediatr. 1996 Nov;129(5):761-4. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3476(96)70163-4.


The recommended treatment for pertussis is erythromycin, 40 to 50 mg/kg per day for 2 weeks. The newly developed macrolides, clarithromycin and azithromycin, have been demonstrated to be superior to erythromycin because of improved absorption and a longer half-life. As a result, we conducted two separate comparison studies to evaluate the efficacies of clarithromycin, 10 mg/kg per day, twice a day for 7 days, and azithromycin, 10 mg/kg per day, once a day for 5 days, compared with the standard erythromycin regimen. A total of 17 patients, including 10 infants 1 year of age or less, for whom pertussis had been confirmed by culture, were allocated to receive either clarithromycin or azithromycin treatment, and each patient was matched (age, sex, and immunization status) with historical control subjects who had been treated with erythromycin. Eradication rates examined at 1 week after treatment were as follows: 9 of 9 with clarithromycin versus 16 of 18 with erythromycin (psi M-H = 1.13), and 8 of 8 with azithromycin versus 13 of 16 with erythromycin (psi M-H = 1.23). No bacterial relapse after treatment was detected in either group. All isolated strains of Bordetella pertussis were susceptible to clarithromycin, azithromycin, and erythromycin, and no change in drug susceptibility has been confirmed for the past 20 years in Japan. Because of the very low incidence of pertussis resulting from widespread use of acellular pertussis vaccination, this study did not enroll a large number of patients; however we conclude that short-term treatment with clarithromycin or azithromycin is expected to be equal or superior to the standard long-term erythromycin regimen for pertussis.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Azithromycin / administration & dosage
  • Azithromycin / therapeutic use*
  • Bordetella pertussis / drug effects
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Clarithromycin / administration & dosage
  • Clarithromycin / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Whooping Cough / drug therapy*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Azithromycin
  • Clarithromycin