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Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews

Antibiotics for exacerbations of asthma

Overview of attention for article published in Cochrane database of systematic reviews, June 2018
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  • In the top 5% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric
  • High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age (94th percentile)
  • High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age and source (80th percentile)

Mentioned by

1 blog
76 tweeters
3 Facebook pages
1 Wikipedia page
1 Google+ user


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Readers on

340 Mendeley
Antibiotics for exacerbations of asthma
Published in
Cochrane database of systematic reviews, June 2018
DOI 10.1002/14651858.cd002741.pub2
Pubmed ID

Rebecca Normansell, Ben Sayer, Samuel Waterson, Emma J Dennett, Manuela Del Forno, Anne Dunleavy


Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that affects over 300 million adults and children worldwide. It is characterised by wheeze, cough, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. Symptoms typically are intermittent and may worsen over a short time, leading to an exacerbation. Asthma exacerbations can be serious, leading to hospitalisation or even death in rare cases. Exacerbations may be treated by increasing an individual's usual medication and providing additional medication, such as oral steroids. Although antibiotics are sometimes included in the treatment regimen, bacterial infections are thought to be responsible for only a minority of exacerbations, and current guidance states that antibiotics should be reserved for cases in which clear signs, symptoms, or laboratory test results are suggestive of bacterial infection. To determine the efficacy and safety of antibiotics in the treatment of asthma exacerbations. We searched the Cochrane Airways Trials Register, which contains records compiled from multiple electronic and handsearched resources. We also searched trial registries and reference lists of primary studies. We conducted the most recent search in October 2017. We included studies comparing antibiotic therapy for asthma exacerbations in adults or children versus placebo or usual care not involving an antibiotic. We allowed studies including any type of antibiotic, any dose, and any duration, providing the aim was to treat the exacerbation. We included parallel studies of any duration conducted in any setting and planned to include cluster trials. We excluded cross-over trials. We included studies reported as full-text articles, those published as abstracts only, and unpublished data. At least two review authors screened the search results for eligible studies. We extracted outcome data, assessed risk of bias in duplicate, and resolved discrepancies by involving another review author. We analysed dichotomous data as odds ratios (ORs) or risk differences (RDs), and continuous data as mean differences (MDs), all with a fixed-effect model. We described skewed data narratively. We graded the results and presented evidence in 'Summary of findings' tables for each comparison. Primary outcomes were intensive care unit/high dependence unit (ICU/HDU) admission, duration of symptoms/exacerbations, and all adverse events. Seconday outcomes were mortality, length of hospital admission, relapse after index presentation, and peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR). Six studies met our inclusion criteria and included a total of 681 adults and children with exacerbations of asthma. Mean age in the three studies in adults ranged from 36.2 to 41.2 years. The three studies in children applied varied inclusion criteria, ranging from one to 18 years of age. Five studies explicitly excluded participants with obvious signs and symptoms of bacterial infection (i.e. those clearly meeting current guidance to receive antibiotics). Four studies investigated macrolide antibiotics, and two studies investigated penicillin (amoxicillin and ampicillin) antibiotics; both studies using penicillin were conducted over 35 years ago. Five studies compared antibiotics versus placebo, and one was open-label. Study follow-up ranged from one to twelve weeks. Trials were of varied methodological quality, and we were able to perform only limited meta-analysis.None of the included trials reported ICU/HDU admission, although one participant in the placebo group of a study including children with status asthmaticus experienced a respiratory arrest and was ventilated. Four studies reported asthma symptoms, but we were able to combine results for only two macrolide studies of 416 participants; the MD in diary card symptom score was -0.34 (95% confidence interval (CI) -0.60 to -0.08), with lower scores (on a 7 point scale) denoting improved symptoms. Two macrolide studies reported symptom-free days. One study of 255 adults authors reported the percentage of symptom-free days at 10 days as 16% in the antibiotic group and 8% in the placebo group. In a further study of 40 children study authors reported significantly more symptom-free days at all time points in the antibiotic group compared with the usual care group. The same study reported the duration in days of the index asthma exacerbation, again favouring the antibiotic group. One study of a penicillin including 69 participants reported asthma symptoms at hospital discharge; the between-group difference for both studies was reported as non-significant.We combined data for serious adverse events from three studies involving 502 participants, but events were rare; the three trials reported only 10 events: five in the antibiotic group and five in the placebo group. We combined data for all adverse events (AEs) from three studies, but the effect estimate is imprecise (OR 0.99, 95% CI 0.69 to 1.43). No deaths were reported in any of the included studies.Two studies investigating penicillins reported admission duration; neither study reported a between-group difference. In one study (263 participants) of macrolides, two participants in each arm were reported as experiencing a relapse, defined as a further exacerbation, by the six-week time points. We combined PEFR endpoint results at 10 days for two macrolide studies; the result favoured antibiotics over placebo (MD 23.42 L/min, 95% CI 5.23 to 41.60). One study in children reported the maximum peak flow recorded during the follow-up period, favouring the clarithromycin group, but the confidence interval includes no difference (MD 38.80, 95% CI -11.19 to 88.79).Grading of outcomes ranged from moderate to very low quality, with quality of outcomes downgraded for suspicion of publication bias, indirectness, imprecision, and poor methodological quality of studies. We found limited evidence that antibiotics given at the time of an asthma exacerbation may improve symptoms and PEFR at follow-up compared with standard care or placebo. However, findings were inconsistent across the six heterogeneous studies included, two of the studies were conducted over 30 years ago and most of the participants included in this review were recruited from emergency departments, limiting the applicability of findings to this population. Therefore we have limited confidence in the results. We found insufficient evidence about several patient-important outcomes (e.g. hospital admission) to form conclusions. We were unable to rule out a difference between groups in terms of all adverse events, but serious adverse events were rare.

Twitter Demographics

The data shown below were collected from the profiles of 76 tweeters who shared this research output. Click here to find out more about how the information was compiled.

Mendeley readers

The data shown below were compiled from readership statistics for 340 Mendeley readers of this research output. Click here to see the associated Mendeley record.

Geographical breakdown

Country Count As %
Unknown 340 100%

Demographic breakdown

Readers by professional status Count As %
Student > Bachelor 49 14%
Student > Master 39 11%
Other 27 8%
Student > Ph. D. Student 20 6%
Researcher 19 6%
Other 58 17%
Unknown 128 38%
Readers by discipline Count As %
Medicine and Dentistry 101 30%
Nursing and Health Professions 30 9%
Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutical Science 18 5%
Social Sciences 7 2%
Psychology 7 2%
Other 40 12%
Unknown 137 40%

Attention Score in Context

This research output has an Altmetric Attention Score of 54. This is our high-level measure of the quality and quantity of online attention that it has received. This Attention Score, as well as the ranking and number of research outputs shown below, was calculated when the research output was last mentioned on 08 March 2022.
All research outputs
of 22,510,821 outputs
Outputs from Cochrane database of systematic reviews
of 12,268 outputs
Outputs of similar age
of 300,823 outputs
Outputs of similar age from Cochrane database of systematic reviews
of 166 outputs
Altmetric has tracked 22,510,821 research outputs across all sources so far. Compared to these this one has done particularly well and is in the 97th percentile: it's in the top 5% of all research outputs ever tracked by Altmetric.
So far Altmetric has tracked 12,268 research outputs from this source. They typically receive a lot more attention than average, with a mean Attention Score of 30.1. This one has done well, scoring higher than 89% of its peers.
Older research outputs will score higher simply because they've had more time to accumulate mentions. To account for age we can compare this Altmetric Attention Score to the 300,823 tracked outputs that were published within six weeks on either side of this one in any source. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 94% of its contemporaries.
We're also able to compare this research output to 166 others from the same source and published within six weeks on either side of this one. This one has done well, scoring higher than 80% of its contemporaries.