Shortening antibiotic treatment worsens outcomes in children with ear infection

Researchers found that standard-duration antibiotic treatment for acute otitis media works better than shorter treatments.

Close up of otitis media ear infection

A potential strategy to reduce antimicrobial resistance associated with acute otitis media treatment is to shorten antibiotic treatment duration, but it is unclear what effect this has on outcomes.

In a study in The New England Journal of Medicine
(online, 22 December 2016), researchers randomly assigned 520 children aged 6 to 23 months with acute otitis media to receive amoxicillin-clavulanate for the standard 10 days, or for 5 days followed by 5 days placebo.

They found that the rate of clinical failure was 34% in children who received the reduced duration treatment compared with 16% for the standard duration treatment. Meanwhile, rates of recurrence of acute otitis media, adverse events and detection of penicillin-resistant pathogens were similar between the two groups.

The team say that not only did their results fail to show non-inferiority of reduced-duration treatment, as per the study protocol, but demonstrated superiority of the standard-duration treatment.


[1] Hoberman A, Paradise JL, Rockette HE et al. Shortened antimicrobial treatment for acute otitis media in young children. NEJM 2016;375:2446-2456. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1606043

Last updated
Clinical Pharmacist, CP, February 2017, Vol 9, No 2;9(2):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2017.20202252

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