During epidemics, influenza attack rates in children may exceed 40%. Options for prevention and treatment currently include the neuraminidase inhibitors zanamivir and oseltamivir. Laninamivir octanoate, the prodrug of laninamivir, is currently being developed.
To assess the efficacy, safety and tolerability of neuraminidase inhibitors in the treatment and prevention of influenza in children.
For this update we searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library 2011, Issue 1) which includes the Acute Respiratory Infections Group's Specialised Register, MEDLINE (1966 to January week 2, 2011) and EMBASE (January 2010 to January 2011).
Double-blind, randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing neuraminidase inhibitors with placebo or other antiviral drugs in children aged up to and including 12 years. We also included safety and tolerability data from other types of studies.
Data collection and analysis
Four review authors selected studies, assessed study quality and extracted data for the current and previous versions of this review. We analysed data separately for oseltamivir versus placebo, zanamivir versus placebo and laninamivir octanoate versus oseltamivir.
Six treatment trials involving 1906 children with clinical influenza and 450 children with influenza diagnosed on rapid near-patient influenza testing were included. Of these 2356 children, 1255 had laboratory-confirmed influenza. Three prophylaxis trials involving 863 children exposed to influenza were also included. In children with laboratory-confirmed influenza oseltamivir reduced median duration of illness by 36 hours (26%, P < 0.001). One trial of oseltamivir in children with asthma who had laboratory-confirmed influenza showed only a small reduction in illness duration (10.4 hours, 8%), which was not statistically significant (P = 0.542). Laninamivir octanoate 20 mg reduced symptom duration by 2.8 days (60%, P < 0.001) in children with oseltamivir-resistant influenza A/H1N1. Zanamivir reduced median duration of illness by 1.3 days (24%, P < 0.001). Oseltamivir significantly reduced acute otitis media in children aged one to five years with laboratory-confirmed influenza (risk difference (RD) -0.14, 95% confidence interval (CI) -0.24 to -0.04). Prophylaxis with either zanamivir or oseltamivir was associated with an 8% absolute reduction in developing influenza after the introduction of a case into a household (RD -0.08, 95% CI -0.12 to -0.05, P < 0.001). The adverse event profile of zanamivir was no worse than placebo but vomiting was more commonly associated with oseltamivir (number needed to harm = 17, 95% CI 10 to 34). The adverse event profiles of laninamivir octanoate and oseltamivir were similar.
Oseltamivir and zanamivir appear to have modest benefit in reducing duration of illness in children with influenza. However, our analysis was limited by small sample sizes and an inability to pool data from different studies. Oseltamivir reduces the incidence of acute otitis media in children aged one to five years but is associated with a significantly increased risk of vomiting. One study demonstrated that laninamivir octanoate was more effective than oseltamivir in shortening duration of illness in children with oseltamivir-resistant influenza A/H1N1. The benefit of oseltamivir and zanamivir in preventing the transmission of influenza in households is modest and based on weak evidence. However, the clinical efficacy of neuraminidase inhibitors in 'at risk' children is still uncertain. Larger high-quality trials are needed with sufficient power to determine the efficacy of neuraminidase inhibitors in preventing serious complications of influenza (such as pneumonia or hospital admission), particularly in 'at risk' groups.