Effects of procalcitonin testing on antibiotic use and clinical outcomes in patients with upper respiratory tract infections. An individual patient data meta-analysis

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Several trials found procalcitonin (PCT) helpful for guiding antibiotic treatment in patients with lower respiratory tract infections and sepsis. We aimed to perform an individual patient data meta-analysis on the effects of PCT guided antibiotic therapy in upper respiratory tract infections (URTI).


A comprehensive search of the literature was conducted using PubMed (MEDLINE) and Cochrane Library to identify relevant studies published until September 2016. We reanalysed individual data of adult URTI patients with a clinical diagnosis of URTI. Data of two trials were used based on PRISMA-IPD guidelines. Safety outcomes were (1) treatment failure defined as death, hospitalization, ARI-specific complications, recurrent or worsening infection at 28 days follow-up; and (2) restricted activity within a 14-day follow-up. Secondary endpoints were initiation of antibiotic therapy, and total days of antibiotic exposure.


In total, 644 patients with a follow up of 28 days had a final diagnosis of URTI and were thus included in this analysis. There was no difference in treatment failure (33.1% vs. 34.0%, OR 1.0, 95% CI 0.7-1.4; p=0.896) and days with restricted activity between groups (8.0 vs. 8.0 days, regression coefficient 0.2 (95% CI -0.4 to 0.9), p=0.465). However, PCT guided antibiotic therapy resulted in lower antibiotic prescription (17.8% vs. 51.0%, OR 0.2, 95% CI 0.1-0.3; p<0.001) and in a 2.4 day (95% CI -2.9 to -1.9; p<0.001) shorter antibiotic exposure compared to control patients.


PCT guided antibiotic therapy in the primary care setting was associated with reduced antibiotic exposure in URTI patients without compromising outcomes.

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