Eur J Pediatr. 2023 Oct 23. doi: 10.1007/s00431-023-05275-8. Online ahead of print.
The optimal duration of antibiotic treatment for the most common bacterial meningitis etiologies in the pediatric population, namely Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, and Neisseria meningitidis, is not well-established in the literature. Therefore, we aimed to perform an updated meta-analysis comparing shorter versus longer antibiotic treatment in children with meningitis. PubMed, EMBASE, and Cochrane databases were searched for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that compared shorter (up to 7 days) versus longer (10 days or double the days of the equivalent short course) duration of antibiotic treatment in children with meningitis and reported the outcomes of treatment failure, death, neurologic sequelae, non-neurologic complications, hearing impairment, nosocomial infection, and relapse. Heterogeneity was examined with I2 statistics. RevMan 5.4.1 was used for statistical analysis and RoB-2 (Cochrane) for risk of bias assessment. Of 684 search results, 6 RCTs were included, with a cohort of 1333 children ages 3 weeks to 15.5 years, of whom 49.51% underwent a short antibiotic course. All RCTs included monotherapy with ceftriaxone, except one, which added vancomycin as well. No differences were found comparing the short and long duration of therapy concerning treatment failure, relapse, mortality, and neurologic complications at discharge and at follow-up. Conclusion: Because no statistically significant differences were found between groups for the analyzed outcomes, the results of this meta-analysis support shorter therapy. However, generalizing these results to complicated meningitis and infections caused by other pathogens should be made with caution. (PROSPERO identifier: CRD42022369843). What is Known: • Current recommendations on the duration of antibiotic therapy for bacterial meningitis are mostly based on clinical practice. • Defining an optimal duration of antibiotic therapy is essential for antimicrobial stewardship achievement, improving patient outcomes, and minimizing adverse effects. What is New: • There are no differences between shorter versus longer antibiotic treatment duration in regard to treatment failure, relapse, mortality, neurologic complications, and hearing impairment at discharge and at follow-up.