Methods: Infants aged ≤24 months were enrolled from three centers and randomized to receive three once-weekly doses of either azithromycin (30 mg/kg) or placebo. Nasopharyngeal swabs were collected at baseline and 48 h later. Primary endpoints were hospital length of stay (LOS) and duration of oxygen supplementation monitored every 12 h until judged ready for discharge. Secondary outcomes were: day-21 symptom/signs, respiratory rehospitalizations within 6 months post-discharge and impact upon nasopharyngeal bacteria and virus shedding at 48 h.
Results: Two hundred nineteen infants were randomized (n = 106 azithromycin, n = 113 placebo). No significant between-group differences were found for LOS (median 54 h for each group, difference = 0 h, 95% CI: −6, 8; p = 0.8), time receiving oxygen (azithromycin = 40 h, placebo = 35 h, group difference = 5 h, 95% CI: −8, 11; p = 0.7), day-21 symptom/signs, or rehospitalization within 6 months (azithromycin n = 31, placebo n = 25 infants, p = 0.2). Azithromycin reduced nasopharyngeal bacterial carriage (between-group difference 0.4 bacteria/child, 95% CI: 0.2, 0.6; p < 0.001), but had no significant effect upon virus detection rates.
Conclusion: Despite reducing nasopharyngeal bacterial carriage, three large once-weekly doses of azithromycin did not confer any benefit over placebo during the bronchiolitis illness or 6 months post hospitalization. Azithromycin should not be used routinely to treat infants hospitalized with bronchiolitis.