Airways Disorders Network


Bronchiectasis Section

Antibiotics in non–cystic fibrosis bronchiectasis: new perspectives

The clearest benefit of antibiotics in managing non-cystic fibrosis bronchiectasis is for treatment of exacerbations and for chronic azithromycin use. There is a paucity of high-quality evidence for prophylactic antibiotics, though guidelines support this practice, particularly for adults with three or more exacerbations a year. A recent Cochrane database review (Spencer, et al. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2022;1[1]:CD013254) examined eight RCTs, with interventions ranging from 16 to 48 weeks, involving 2,180 adults and found little net benefit for prophylactic cycled antibiotics (fluoroquinolones, beta-lactams, and aminoglycosides) in terms of outcomes viz time-to-first-exacerbation and duration of exacerbations, but more than doubled the risk of emerging resistance.

Clinical equipoise exists regarding the duration of antibiotics during exacerbations. Guidelines favor 14 days. A recent RCT (Pallavi, et al. Eur Respir J. 2021;58:2004388) examined the feasibility of bacterial load-guided therapy in 47 participants with bronchiectasis requiring IV antibiotics.

Patients were randomized to either 14 days of antibiotics or treatment guided by bacterial load (BLGG). The 88% of participants in the BLGG group were able to stop antibiotics by day 8, and potentially 81% of participants in the 14-day group could have stopped antibiotics at day 8. Median time to next exacerbation was much longer – 60 days (18-110 days) in the in BLGG group vs 27.5 days (12.5-60 days) in the 14-day group vs (P = .0034). A larger multicenter RCT may clarify the benefits of this approach to shortening duration of antibiotic therapy in patients with bronchiectasis exacerbations.

O’Neil Green, MBBS, FCCP

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