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Acute exacerbations in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: should we use antibiotics and if so, which ones?

David M Jacobs, Ursula Pandit, Sanjay Sethi
Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases 2019, 32 (2): 143-151

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Acute exacerbations are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) with evidence suggesting at least 50% of exacerbations involve bacteria that benefit from antibiotic treatment. Here, we review the most relevant data regarding the use of antibiotics in exacerbations of COPD and provide insights on the selection of initial antibiotic therapy for their treatment.

RECENT FINDINGS: Identification of bacterial exacerbations still relies on clinical assessment rather than laboratory biomarkers. Several recent studies, including a meta-analysis and placebo-controlled trials, demonstrate improved outcomes with antibiotics in all but mild exacerbations of COPD, including both inpatient and outpatient. A broader antibiotic regimen should be used for patients who have risk factors for poor outcomes. A risk-stratification approach can guide antibiotic choice, although the stratification algorithm still needs to be validated in a randomized controlled trial.

SUMMARY: The use of antibiotics for the treatment of moderate-to-severe suspected bacterial exacerbations in COPD is supported by published trials and evidence-based systematic reviews. Recent trials also show differences in outcomes based on antibiotic choice. More research is necessary to evaluate risk stratification approaches when selecting initial antibiotic therapy.


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