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Systematic review on antibiotic therapy for pneumonia in children between 2 and 59 months of age
  1. Zohra S Lassi1,
  2. Jai K Das1,
  3. Syed Waqas Haider1,
  4. Rehana A Salam1,
  5. Shamim A Qazi2,
  6. Zulfiqar A Bhutta1
  1. 1Division of Women and Child Health, The Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan
  2. 2Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health, World Health Organization
  1. Correspondence to Dr Zulfiqar A Bhutta, Division of Women and Child Health, The Aga Khan University, Karachi 74500, Pakistan; Program for Global Pediatric Research, Hospital For Sick Children, Toronto; zulfiqar.bhutta{at}


Community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) remains a force to reckon with, as it accounts for 1.1 million of all deaths in children less than 5 years of age globally, with disproportionately higher mortality occurring in the low and middle income-countries (LMICs) of Southeast Asia and Africa. Existing strategies to curb pneumonia-related morbidity and mortality have not effectively translated into meaningful control of pneumonia-related burden. In the present systematic review, we conducted a meta-analysis of trials conducted in LMICs to determine the most suitable antibiotic therapy for treating pneumonia (very severe, severe and non-severe). While previous reviews, including the most recent review by Lodha et al, have focused either on single modality of antibiotic therapy (such as choice of antibiotic) or children under the age of 16 years, the current review updates evidence on the choice of drug, duration, route and combination of antibiotics in children specifically between 2 and 59 months of age. We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and quasi-RCTs that assessed the route, dose, combination and duration of antibiotics in the management of WHO-defined very severe/severe/non-severe CAP. Study participants included children between 2 and 59 months of age with CAP. All available titles and abstracts were screened for inclusion by two review authors independently. All data was entered and analysed using Review Manager 5 software. The review identified 8122 studies on initial search, of which 22 studies which enrolled 20 593 children were included in meta-analyses. Evidence from these trials showed a combination of penicillin/ampicillin and gentamicin to be effective for managing very severe pneumonia in children between 2 and 59 months of age, and oral amoxicillin to be equally efficacious, as other parenteral antibiotics for managing severe pneumonia in children of this particular age group. Oral amoxicillin was also found to be effective in non-severe pneumonia as well. The review further found a short 3 day course of antibiotics to be equally beneficial as 5 day course for managing non-severe pneumonia in children between 2 and 59 months of age. This review updates evidence on the general spectrum of antibiotic recommendation for CAP in children between 2 and 59 months of age, which is an age group that warrants special focus owing to its high disease and mortality burden. Evidence derived from the review found oral amoxicillin to be equally effective as parenteral antibiotics for severe pneumonia in the 2–59 month age group, which holds important implications for LMICs where parenteral drug administration is an issue. Also, the review's finding that 3 day course of antibiotic is equally effective as 5 day course for non-severe pneumonia for 2–59 months of age is again beneficial for LMICs, as a shorter therapy will be associated with a lower cost. The review addresses some research gaps in antibiotic treatment for CAP as well, and this crucial information is presented with the aim of providing a targeted cure for the middle and low income setting.

  • Pneumonia
  • Community Acquired Pneumonia
  • Children

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