Antibiotics for community acquired lower respiratory tract infections (LRTI) secondary to Mycoplasma pneumoniae in children

  • Review
  • Intervention




Mycoplasma pneumoniae (M. pneumoniae) is widely recognised as an important cause of community-acquired lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI) in children. Pulmonary manifestations are typically tracheobronchitis or pneumonia but M. pneumoniae is also implicated in wheezing episodes in both asthmatic and non-asthmatic individuals. Although antibiotics are used to treat LRTI, a review of several major textbooks offers conflicting advice for the use of antibiotics in the management of M. pneumoniae LRTI in children.


To determine whether antibiotics are effective in the treatment of childhood LRTI secondary to M. pneumoniae infections acquired in the community.

Search strategy

We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library 2005, issue 1), which contains the Acute Respiratory Infection Group's Specialized Register; MEDLINE (1966 to February 2005); and EMBASE (1980 to December 2004).

Selection criteria

Randomised controlled trials comparing antibiotics commonly used for treating M. pneumoniae (i.e. macrolide, tetracycline or quinolone classes) versus placebo, or antibiotics from any other class in the treatment of children under 18 years of age with community acquired LRTI secondary to M. pneumoniae.

Data collection and analysis

The authors independently selected trials for inclusion and assessed methodological quality. Relevant data were extracted and analysed separately and any disagreements were resolved by consensus.

Main results

A total of 1352 children were enrolled from six studies. The number of children from one study was unavailable. Data interpretation was significantly limited by the inability to extract data that specifically referred to children with M. pneumoniae. Clinical response did not differ between the children randomised to a macrolide antibiotic and the children randomised to a non-macrolide antibiotic. There were no studies comparing relevant antibiotics with placebo.

Authors' conclusions

This review found insufficient evidence to draw any conclusions about the efficacy of antibiotics for LRTI secondary to M. pneumoniae in children. The use of antibiotics for M. pneumoniae LRTI has to be individualised and balanced with possible adverse events associated with antibiotic use. There is a need for high quality, double-blinded randomised controlled trials to assess the efficacy and safety of antibiotics for LRTI secondary to M. pneumoniae in children.

Plain language summary

There is insufficient evidence from trials about the benefits of antibiotic treatment for lower respiratory tract infections in children secondary to Mycoplasma pneumoniae (M. pneumoniae).

M. pneumoniae is an bacterial infection often responsible for lower respiratory tract infections (LRTI) in children. The infection can present in a number of different ways and the most common respiratory manifestations are acute bronchitis, pneumonia or exacerbation of asthma. The illness is generally self-limiting with symptoms lasting several weeks. Antibiotics are often given to children with M. pneumoniae LRTI but the authors found there were no adequate trials which show that antibiotics are effective.