Glucocorticoid with cyclophosphamide for oral paraquat poisoning

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Background: This an update of a Cochrane Review. Paraquat is a widely used herbicide, but is also a lethal poison. In some low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) paraquat is commonly available and inexpensive, making poisoning prevention difficult. Most of the people poisoned by paraquat have taken it as a means of self-poisoning. Standard treatment for paraquat poisoning prevents further absorption and reduces the load of paraquat in the blood through haemoperfusion or haemodialysis. The effectiveness of standard treatments is extremely limited. The immune system plays an important role in exacerbating paraquat-induced lung fibrosis. Immunosuppressive treatment using glucocorticoid and cyclophosphamide in combination has been developed and studied as an intervention for paraquat poisoning. Objectives: To assess the effects of glucocorticoid with cyclophosphamide for moderate to severe oral paraquat poisoning. Search methods: The most recent searches were run in September 2020. We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (which contains the Cochrane Injuries Trials Register), Ovid MEDLINE(R), Ovid MEDLINE In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations, Ovid MEDLINE Daily and Ovid OLDMEDLINE, Embase Classic + Embase (Ovid), ISI WOS (SCI-EXPANDED, SSCI, CPCI-S, and CPSI-SSH), and trials registries. We also searched the following three resources: China National Knowledge Infrastructure database (CNKI 数据库); Wanfang Data (万方数据库); and VIP (维普数据库) on 12 November 2020. We examined the reference lists of included studies and review papers. Selection criteria: We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs). For this update, in accordance with Cochrane Injuries' Group policy (2015), we included only prospectively registered RCTs for trials published after 2010. We included trials which assessed the effects of glucocorticoid with cyclophosphamide delivered in combination. Eligible comparators were standard care (with or without a placebo), or any other therapy in addition to standard care. Outcomes of interest included mortality and infections. Data collection and analysis: We calculated the mortality risk ratio (RR) and 95% confidence interval (CI). Where possible, we summarised data for all-cause mortality at relevant time periods (from hospital discharge to three months after discharge) in meta-analysis, using a fixed-effect model. We conducted sensitivity analyses based on factors including whether participants were assessed at baseline for plasma paraquat levels. We also reported data on infections within one week after initiation of treatment. Main results: We included four trials with a total of 463 participants. The included studies were conducted in Taiwan (Republic of China), Iran, and Sri Lanka. Most participants were male. The mean age of participants was 28 years. We judged two of the four included studies, including the largest and most recently conducted study (n = 299), to be at low risk of bias for key domains including sequence generation. We assessed one study to be at high risk of selection bias and another at unclear risk, since allocation concealment was either not mentioned in the trial report or explicitly not undertaken. We assessed three of the four studies to be at unclear risk of selective reporting, as no protocols could be identified. An important source of heterogeneity amongst the included studies was the method of assessment of participants' baseline severity using analysis of plasma levels (two studies employed this method, whilst the other two did not). No studies assessed the outcome of mortality at 30 days following ingestion of paraquat. Low-certainty evidence from two studies indicates that glucocorticoids with cyclophosphamide in addition to standard care may slightly reduce the risk of death in hospital compared to standard care alone ((RR 0.82, 95% CI 0.68 to 0.99; participants = 322); results come from sensitivity analysis excluding studies not assessing plasma at baseline). However, we have limited confidence in this finding as heterogeneity was high (I2 = 77%) and studies varied in terms of size and comparators. A single large study provided data showing that there may be little or no effect of treatment at three months post discharge from hospital (RR 0.98, 95% CI 0.85 to 1.13; 1 study, 293 participants; low-certainty evidence); however, analysis of long-term results amongst participants whose injuries arose from self-poisoning must be interpreted with caution. We remain uncertain of the effect of glucocorticoids with cyclophosphamide on infection within one week after initiation of the treatment; this outcome was assessed by two small studies only (31 participants, very low-certainty evidence) that considered leukopenia as a proxy or risk factor for infection. Neither study reported infections in any participants. Authors' conclusions: Low-certainly evidence suggests that glucocorticoids with cyclophosphamide in addition to standard care may slightly reduce mortality in hospitalised people with oral paraquat poisoning. However, we have limited confidence in this finding because of substantial heterogeneity and concerns about imprecision. Glucocorticoids with cyclophosphamide in addition to standard care may have little or no effect on mortality at three months after hospital discharge. We are uncertain whether glucocorticoid with cyclophosphamide puts patients at an increased risk of infection due to the limited evidence available for this outcome. Future research should be prospectively registered and CONSORT-compliant. Investigators should attempt to ensure an adequate sample size, screen participants for inclusion rigorously, and seek long-term follow-up of participants. Investigators may wish to research the effects of glucocorticoid in combination with other treatments.




Li, L. R., Chaudhary, B., You, C., Dennis, J. A., & Wakeford, H. (2021). Glucocorticoid with cyclophosphamide for oral paraquat poisoning. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2021(6).

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