Antibiotics for treatment of leptospirosis

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Abstract

Background: Leptospirosis is a disease transmitted from animals to humans through water, soil, or food contaminated with the urine of infected animals, caused by pathogenic Leptospira species. Antibiotics are commonly prescribed for the management of leptospirosis. Despite the widespread use of antibiotic treatment for leptospirosis, there seems to be insufficient evidence to determine its effectiveness or to recommend antibiotic use as a standard practice. This updated systematic review evaluated the available evidence regarding the use of antibiotics in treating leptospirosis, building upon a previously published Cochrane review. Objectives: To evaluate the benefits and harms of antibiotics versus placebo, no intervention, or another antibiotic for the treatment of people with leptospirosis. Search methods: We identified randomised clinical trials following standard Cochrane procedures. The date of the last search was 27 March 2023. Selection criteria: We searched for randomised clinical trials of various designs that examined the use of antibiotics for treating leptospirosis. We did not impose any restrictions based on the age, sex, occupation, or comorbidities of the participants involved in the trials. Our search encompassed trials that evaluated antibiotics, regardless of the method of administration, dosage, and schedule, and compared them with placebo or no intervention, or compared different antibiotics. We included trials regardless of the outcomes reported. Data collection and analysis: During the preparation of this review, we adhered to the Cochrane methodology and used Review Manager. The primary outcomes were all-cause mortality and serious adverse events (nosocomial infection). Our secondary outcomes were quality of life, proportion of people with adverse events considered non-serious, and days of hospitalisation. To assess the risk of bias of the included trials, we used the RoB 2 tool, and for evaluating the certainty of evidence we used GRADEpro GDT software. We presented dichotomous outcomes as risk ratios (RR) and continuous outcomes as mean differences (MD), both accompanied by their corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CI). We used the random-effects model for all our main analyses and the fixed-effect model for sensitivity analyses. For our primary outcome analyses, we included trial data from the longest follow-up period. Main results: We identified nine randomised clinical trials comprising 1019 participants. Seven trials compared two intervention groups and two trials compared three intervention groups. Amongst the trials comparing antibiotics versus placebos, four trials assessed penicillin and one trial assessed doxycycline. In the trials comparing different antibiotics, one trial evaluated doxycycline versus azithromycin, one trial assessed penicillin versus doxycycline versus cefotaxime, and one trial evaluated ceftriaxone versus penicillin. One trial assessed penicillin with chloramphenicol and no intervention. Apart from two trials that recruited military personnel stationed in endemic areas or military personnel returning from training courses in endemic areas, the remaining trials recruited people from the general population presenting to the hospital with fever in an endemic area. The participants' ages in the included trials was 13 to 92 years. The treatment duration was seven days for penicillin, doxycycline, and cephalosporins; five days for chloramphenicol; and three days for azithromycin. The follow-up durations varied across trials, with three trials not specifying their follow-up periods. Three trials were excluded from quantitative synthesis; one reported zero events for a prespecified outcome, and two did not provide data for any prespecified outcomes. Antibiotics versus placebo or no intervention. The evidence is very uncertain about the effect of penicillin versus placebo on all-cause mortality (RR 1.57, 95% CI 0.65 to 3.79; I2 = 8%; 3 trials, 367 participants; very low-certainty evidence). The evidence is very uncertain about the effect of penicillin or chloramphenicol versus placebo on adverse events considered non-serious (RR 1.05, 95% CI 0.35 to 3.17; I2 = 0%; 2 trials, 162 participants; very low-certainty evidence). None of the included trials assessed serious adverse events. Antibiotics versus another antibiotic. The evidence is very uncertain about the effect of penicillin versus cephalosporin on all-cause mortality (RR 1.38, 95% CI 0.47 to 4.04; I2 = 0%; 2 trials, 348 participants; very low-certainty evidence), or versus doxycycline (RR 0.93, 95% CI 0.13 to 6.46; 1 trial, 168 participants; very low-certainty evidence). The evidence is very uncertain about the effect of cefotaxime versus doxycycline on all-cause mortality (RR 0.18, 95% CI 0.01 to 3.78; 1 trial, 169 participants; very low-certainty evidence). The evidence is very uncertain about the effect of penicillin versus doxycycline on serious adverse events (nosocomial infection) (RR 0.62, 95% CI 0.11 to 3.62; 1 trial, 168 participants; very low-certainty evidence) or versus cefotaxime (RR 1.01, 95% CI 0.15 to 7.02; 1 trial, 175 participants; very low-certainty evidence). The evidence is very uncertain about the effect of doxycycline versus cefotaxime on serious adverse events (nosocomial infection) (RR 1.01, 95% CI 0.15 to 7.02; 1 trial, 175 participants; very low-certainty evidence). The evidence is very uncertain about the effect of penicillin versus cefotaxime (RR 3.03, 95% CI 0.13 to 73.47; 1 trial, 175 participants; very low-certainty evidence), versus doxycycline (RR 2.80, 95% CI 0.12 to 67.66; 1 trial, 175 participants; very low-certainty evidence), or versus chloramphenicol on adverse events considered non-serious (RR 0.74, 95% CI 0.15 to 3.67; 1 trial, 52 participants; very low-certainty evidence). Funding
Six of the nine trials included statements disclosing their funding/supporting sources and three trials did not mention funding source. Four of the six trials mentioning sources received funds from public or governmental sources or from international charitable sources, and the remaining two, in addition to public or governmental sources, received support in the form of trial drug supply directly from pharmaceutical companies. Authors' conclusions: As the certainty of evidence is very low, we do not know if antibiotics provide little to no effect on all-cause mortality, serious adverse events, or adverse events considered non-serious. There is a lack of definitive rigorous data from randomised trials to support the use of antibiotics for treating leptospirosis infection, and the absence of trials reporting data on clinically relevant outcomes further adds to this limitation.

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Win, T. Z., Han, S. M., Edwards, T., Maung, H. T., Brett-Major, D. M., Smith, C., & Lee, N. (2024). Antibiotics for treatment of leptospirosis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2024(3). https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD014960.pub2

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