To compare bacterial and clinical cure rates in patients with group A streptococcal (GAS) tonsillopharyngitis treated with oral β-lactam or macrolide antibiotics for 4–5 days versus 10-day comparators.
Medline, Embase, reference lists and abstract searches were used to identify available publications. Trials were included if there was bacteriologic confirmation of GAS tonsillopharyngitis, random assignment to antibiotic therapy for a β-lactam or macrolide antibiotic of a shortened course versus a 10-day comparator and assessment of bacteriologic outcome using a throat culture.
Twenty-two trials involving 7470 patients were included in 4 separate analyses. Trials were grouped by a short course of cephalosporins (n = 14), macrolides (other than azithromycin) (n = 6) and penicillin (n = 2). Cephalosporin trials were further grouped by the comparator, penicillin or the same cephalosporin. Short course cephalosporin treatment was superior for bacterial cure rate compared with 10 days of penicillin [odds ratio (OR), 1.47; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.06–2.03]. For trials with short course macrolide therapy, OR = 0.79 (95% CI 0.59–1.06) neither the macrolides nor the 10-day comparators. Short course penicillin therapy was inferior in achieving bacterial cure versus 10 days of penicillin, OR = 0.29 (95% CI 0.13–0.63). Clinical cure rates mirrored bacteriologic cure rates.
Superior cure rates can be achieved with shortened courses of cephalosporin therapy, but 5 days is inferior to 10 days of penicillin treatment.