A single dose of azithromycin does not improve clinical outcomes of children hospitalised with bronchiolitis : a randomised, placebo-controlled trial

McCallum, Gabrielle B., Morris, Peter S., Chatfield, Mark D., Maclennan, Carolyn, White, Andrew V., Sloots, Theo, Mackay, Ian M., & Chang, Anne B. (2013) A single dose of azithromycin does not improve clinical outcomes of children hospitalised with bronchiolitis : a randomised, placebo-controlled trial. PLoS One, 8(9), e74316.

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Bronchiolitis, one of the most common reasons for hospitalisation in young children, is particularly problematic in Indigenous children. Macrolides may be beneficial in settings where children have high rates of nasopharyngeal bacterial carriage and frequent prolonged illness. The aim of our double-blind placebo-controlled randomised trial was to determine if a large single dose of azithromycin (compared to placebo) reduced length of stay (LOS), duration of oxygen (O2) and respiratory readmissions within 6 months of children hospitalised with bronchiolitis. We also determined the effect of azithromycin on nasopharyngeal microbiology.


Children aged ≤18 months were randomised to receive a single large dose (30 mg/kg) of either azithromycin or placebo within 24 hrs of hospitalisation. Nasopharyngeal swabs were collected at baseline and 48hrs later. Primary endpoints (LOS, O2) were monitored every 12 hrs. Hospitalised respiratory readmissions 6-months post discharge was collected.


97 children were randomised (n = 50 azithromycin, n = 47 placebo). Median LOS was similar in both groups; azithromycin = 54 hours, placebo = 58 hours (difference between groups of 4 hours 95%CI -8, 13, p = 0.6). O2 requirement was not significantly different between groups; Azithromycin = 35 hrs; placebo = 42 hrs (difference 7 hours, 95%CI -9, 13, p = 0.7). Number of children re-hospitalised was similar 10 per group (OR = 0.9, 95%CI 0.3, 2, p = 0.8). At least one virus was detected in 74% of children. The azithromycin group had reduced nasopharyngeal bacterial carriage (p = 0.01) but no difference in viral detection at 48 hours.


Although a single dose of azithromycin reduces carriage of bacteria, it is unlikely to be beneficial in reducing LOS, duration of O2 requirement or readmissions in children hospitalised with bronchiolitis. It remains uncertain if an earlier and/or longer duration of azithromycin improves clinical and microbiological outcomes for children.

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ID Code: 63883
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0074316
ISSN: 1932-6203
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Public Health & Social Work
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2013 the authors
Copyright Statement: This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Deposited On: 31 Oct 2013 07:16
Last Modified: 29 Jan 2015 00:04

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