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BACKGROUND: People with a history of rheumatic fever are at high risk of recurrent attacks of rheumatic fever and developing rheumatic heart disease following a streptococcal throat infection. Giving penicillin to these people can prevent recurrent attacks of rheumatic fever and subsequent rheumatic heart disease. However, there is no agreement on the most effective method of giving penicillin. OBJECTIVES: To assess the effects of penicillin compared to placebo and the effects of different penicillin regimens and formulations for preventing streptococcal infection and rheumatic fever recurrence. SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched the Controlled Trials Register (Cochrane Library Issue 2, 2001), MEDLINE (1997 to July 2000), EMBASE (1998 to July 2000), reference lists of articles and we contacted experts in the field. SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised and quasi-randomised studies comparing (i) penicillin with control, (ii) oral with intramuscular penicillin (iii) 2- or 3-weekly with 4-weekly intramuscular penicillin in patients with previous rheumatic fever. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two reviewers independently assessed trial quality and extracted data. MAIN RESULTS: Nine studies were included (n=3008). Data were not pooled because of heterogeneity. Overall, the methodological quality of included studies was poor. Three trials (n= 1301) compared penicillin with control. Only one of three studies showed that penicillin reduced rheumatic fever recurrence (RR 0.45, 95% CI 0.22 to 0.92) and streptococcal throat infection (RR 0.84, 95% CI 0.72 to 0.97). Four trials (n=1098) compared intramuscular with oral penicillin and all showed that intramuscular penicillin reduced rheumatic fever recurrence and streptococcal throat infections compared to oral penicillin. One trial (n= 360) compared 2-weekly with 4-weekly intramuscular penicillin. Penicillin given every two-weeks was better at reducing rheumatic fever recurrence (RR 0.52, 95% CI 0.33 to 0.83) and streptococcal throat infections (RR 0.60, 95% CI 0.42 to 0.85). One trial (n= 249) showed 3-weekly intramuscular penicillin injections reduced streptococcal throat infections (RR 0.67, 95% CI 0.48 to 0.92) compared to 4-weekly intramuscular penicillin. REVIEWER'S CONCLUSIONS: Intramuscular penicillin seemed to be more effective than oral penicillin in preventing rheumatic fever recurrence and streptococcal throat infections. Two-weekly or 3-weekly injections appeared to be more effective than 4-weekly injections. However, the evidence is based on poor quality of trials.
Manyemba, J., & Mayosi, B. M. (2002). Penicillin for secondary prevention of rheumatic fever. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.cd002227
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