Antibiotics for community acquired pneumonia in adult outpatients

  • Review
  • Intervention




Community-acquired pneumonia (CAP), the sixth most common cause of death worldwide, is a common condition representing a significant disease burden for the community, particularly in the elderly. Antibiotics are helpful in treating CAP and are the standard treatment. CAP contributes significantly to antibiotic use, which is associated with the development of bacterial resistance and side-effects. Several studies have been published concerning treatment for CAP. Available data arises mainly hospitalized patients studies. This is an update of our 2004 Cochrane Review.


To summarize current evidence from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) concerning the efficacy of different antibiotic treatments for CAP in participants older than 12.

Search methods

We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library, 2009, issue 1) which contains the Cochrane Acute Respiratory Infections Group's Specialized Register; MEDLINE (January 1966 to February week 2, 2009), and EMBASE (January 1974 to February 2009).

Selection criteria

RCTs in which one or more antibiotics were tested for the treatment of CAP in ambulatory adolescents or adults. Studies testing one or more antibiotics and reporting the diagnostic criteria as well as the clinical outcomes achieved, were considered for inclusion.

Data collection and analysis

Two review authors (LMB, TJMV) independently assessed study reports in the first publication. In this update, LMB performed study selection, which was checked by TJMV and MMK. Study authors were contacted to resolve any ambiguities in the study reports. Data were compiled and analyzed. Differences between review authors were resolved by discussion and consensus.

Main results

Six RCTs assessing five antibiotic pairs (1857 participants aged 12 years and older diagnosed with CAP) were included. The study quality was generally good, with some differences in the extent of the reporting. A variety of clinical, radiological and bacteriological diagnostic criteria and outcomes were reported. Overall, there was no significant difference in the efficacy of the various antibiotics.

Authors' conclusions

Currently available evidence from RCTs is insufficient to make evidence-based recommendations for the choice of antibiotic to be used for the treatment of CAP in ambulatory patients. Pooling of study data was limited by the very low number of studies assessing the same antibiotic pairs. Individual study results do not reveal significant differences in efficacy between various antibiotics and antibiotic groups. Multi-drug comparisons using similar administration schedules are needed to provide the evidence necessary for practice recommendations.

Plain language summary

Antibiotics for community acquired pneumonia in adolescent and adult outpatients

Pneumonia, or infection involving the lungs, is the sixth most common cause of death worldwide. Pneumonia is especially life-threatening in older people and people with other illnesses that may affect the immune system (such as diabetes). Antibiotics are the most commonly used treatment for pneumonia, and these can vary in their effectiveness and adverse effects. This review studied the effects of antibiotics for patients with pneumonia acquired and treated in the community (as opposed to people acquiring pneumonia while in hospital, and/or being treated for pneumonia in hospital). Unfortunately, there were not enough trials to compare the effects of different antibiotics for pneumonia acquired and treated in the community.