Saturday, March 10, 2012

Please Stop Using Azithromycin Indiscriminantly

There is a time and a place for a macrolide with a long half-life, and it is not empirically for pharyngitis.

And, it's even less appropriate empirically for pharyngitis now that it's been overused to the point where it's nearly in the drinking water - because it can no longer be considered second-line for group A streptococcus for your penicillin allergic patients.

This is a case report and evidence review from Pediatrics that discusses two cases of rheumatic fever, both of which presented after treatment of GAS pharyngitis with azithromycin.  While rheumatic fever has been almost completely wiped out - there are so few of the RF emm types in circulation, that it's almost nonexistent in the United States - there are still sporadic cases.  Macrolides are listed as second-line therapy for GAS, but single-institution studies have shown macrolide resistant streptococcus in up to 48% of patients.  Macrolide resistance varies greatly worldwide, from a low of 1.1% in Cyprus to 97.9% in Chinese children.

Why is macrolide resistance so high?  Azithromycin is the culprit; because it has such a long-half life, it spends a long time in the body at just below its mean inhibitory concentration, and preferentially selects for resistant strains.

Please stop using azithromycin.  Use doxycycline, or another alternative, when possible.  There has never been reported resistance to pencillin in GAS.

"Macrolide Treatment Failure in Streptococcal Pharyngitis Resulting in Acute Rheumatic Fever"
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22311996

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