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To compare the safety and efficacy of azithromycin with amoxicillin/clavulanate or erythromycin for the treatment of community-acquired pneumonia, including atypical pneumonia caused by Mycoplasma pneumoniae and Chlamydia pneumoniae.Multicenter, parallel group, double blind trial in which patients 6 months to 16 years of age with community-acquired pneumonia were randomized 2:1 to receive either azithromycin for 5 days or conventional therapy for 10 days (amoxicillin/clavulanate if ≤5 years of age or erythromycin estolate if >5 years of age). Patients from 23 geographically diverse sites were evaluated for clinical outcomes and/or adverse events at Days 3 to 5, Days 15 to 19 and 4 to 6 weeks posttherapy. Microbiology (culture or polymerase chain reaction) was done at baseline and Days 15 to 19 for bacteria, Chlamydia pneumoniae and Mycoplasma pneumoniae. Serology for C. pneumoniae and M. pneumoniae was done at baseline and 4 to 6 weeks posttherapy.Of 456 patients enrolled during 17 consecutive months, 420 were evaluable. Clinical success at Study Days 15 to 19 was 94.6% in the azithromycin group and 96.2% in the comparative treatment group (P = 0.735) and at 4 to 6 weeks posttherapy 90.6 and 87.1%, respectively (P = 0.330). Evidence of infection was identified in 46% of 420 evaluable patients (1.9% bacteria, 29.5% M. pneumoniae and 15% C. pneumoniae). Microbiologic eradication was 81% for C. pneumoniae and 100% for M. pneumoniae in the azithromycin group vs. 100 and 57%, respectively, in the comparator group. Treatment-related adverse events occurred in 11.3% of the azithromycin group and 31% in the comparator group (P < 0.05).Azithromycin used once daily for 5 days produced a satisfactory therapeutic outcome similar to those of amoxicillin/clavulanate or erythromycin given three times a day for 10 days for treatment of community-acquired pneumonia. Azithromycin had significantly fewer side effects than comparator drugs.