Shorter Versus Longer Courses of Antibiotics for Infection in Hospitalized Patients: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

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Infection is a leading cause of hospitalization with high morbidity and mortality, but there are limited data to guide the duration of antibiotic therapy.


Systematic review to compare outcomes of shorter versus longer antibiotic courses among hospitalized adults and adolescents.


MEDLINE and Embase databases, 1990–2017.


Inclusion criteria were human randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in English comparing a prespecified short course of antibiotics to a longer course for treatment of infection in hospitalized adults and adolescents aged 12 years and older.


Two authors independently extracted study characteristics, methods of statistical analysis, outcomes, and risk of bias.


Of 5187 unique citations identified, 19 RCTs comprising 2867 patients met our inclusion criteria, including the following: 9 noninferiority trials, 1 superiority design trial, and 9 pilot studies. Across 13 studies evaluating 1727 patients, no significant difference in clinical efficacy was observed (d = 1.6% [95% confidence interval (CI), −1.0%-4.2%]). No significant difference was detected in microbiologic cure (8 studies, d = 1.2% [95% CI, −4.1%-6.4%]), short-term mortality (8 studies, d = 0.3% [95% CI, −1.2%-1.8%]), longer-term mortality (3 studies, d = −0.4% [95% CI, −6.3%-5.5%]), or recurrence (10 studies, d = 2.1% [95% CI, −1.2%-5.3%]). Heterogeneity across studies was not significant for any of the primary outcomes.


Based on the available literature, shorter courses of antibiotics can be safely utilized in hospitalized patients with common infections, including pneumonia, urinary tract infection, and intra-abdominal infection, to achieve clinical and microbiologic resolution without adverse effects on mortality or recurrence.

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