Anti-inflammatory effects of adjunctive macrolide treatment in adults hospitalized with influenza: A randomized controlled trial

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− Macrolides can ameliorate inflammation in respiratory diseases, providing clinical benefits. Data in influenza is lacking.


− A randomized, open-label, multicenter trial among adults hospitalized for laboratory-confirmed influenza was conducted. Study treatments of oseltamivir and azithromycin (500 mg/day), or oseltamivir alone, both for 5 days, were allocated at 1:1 ratio. The primary outcome was plasma cytokine/chemokine concentration change over time (Day 0–10); secondary outcomes were viral load and symptom score changes. Generalized Estimating Equation (GEE) models were used to analyze longitudinal data.


− Fifty patients were randomized to the oseltamivir-azithromycin or oseltamivir groups, with comparable baseline characteristics (age, 57 ± 18 years; A/H3N2, 70%), complications (72%), and viral load. Pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-6 (GEE: β −0.037, 95%CI-0.067,-0.007, P = 0.016; reduction from baseline −83.4% vs −59.5%), CXCL8/IL-8 (β −0.018, 95%CI-0.037,0.000, P = 0.056; −80.5% vs −58.0%), IL-17 (β −0.064, 95%CI-0.117,-0.012, P = 0.015; −74.0% vs −34.3%), CXCL9/MIG (β −0.010, 95%CI-0.020,0.000, P = 0.043; −71.3% vs −56.0%), sTNFR-1, IL-18, and CRP declined faster in the oseltamivir-azithromycin group. There was a trend toward faster symptom resolution (β −0.463, 95%CI-1.297,0.371). Viral RNA decline (P = 0.777) and culture-negativity rates were unaffected. Additional ex vivo studies confirmed reduced induction of IL-6 (P = 0.017) and CXCL8/IL-8 (P = 0.005) with azithromycin.


− We found significant anti-inflammatory effects with adjunctive macrolide treatment in adults with severe influenza infections. Virus control was unimpaired. Clinical benefits of a macrolide-containing regimen deserve further study.


[ NCT01779570]

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