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J Infect. 2014 Jul;69(1):26-34. doi: 10.1016/j.jinf.2014.02.011. Epub 2014 Feb 24.

Antibiotic prophylaxis for preventing recurrent cellulitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Author information

  • 1Department of Dermatology, Singapore General Hospital, Singapore. Electronic address:
  • 2SingHealth Corporate, Office of Research, Centre for Health Services Research, SingHealth, Singapore; Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School & SingHealth Academic Medicine Research Institute, Singapore. Electronic address:
  • 3Department of Dermatology, Singapore General Hospital, Singapore. Electronic address:
  • 4William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital, Madison, WI, USA; Section of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, University of Wisconsin Medical School, USA. Electronic address:
  • 5Section of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, University of Wisconsin Medical School, USA. Electronic address:
  • 6Department of Infectious Diseases, Singapore General Hospital, Singapore. Electronic address:



A significant proportion of patients who have had a first episode of erysipelas or uncomplicated cellulitis will subsequently develop a recurrence. There is disagreement about how effective antibiotic prophylaxis is for preventing recurrent cellulitis.


To determine if antibiotic prophylaxis is effective in preventing recurrent cellulitis compared to no prophylaxis using a systematic review and meta-analysis.


Studies in any language identified by searching Medline, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, CINAHL, TRIP database, clinical practice guidelines websites, and ongoing trials databases up to 31st August 2012. Search terms included cellulitis, erysipelas, controlled clinical trial, randomized, placebo, clinical trials, randomly, and trial.


Only controlled trials comparing antibiotic prophylaxis to no antibiotic prophylaxis in patients age 16 years and above, and after 1 or more episodes of cellulitis, were included.


Independent extraction of articles was done by 2 investigators using predefined data extraction templates, including study quality indicators. PROSPERO registration number: CRD42012002528. Meta-analyses were done using random-effects models.


The primary outcome was the number of patients with a recurrence of cellulitis. Secondary outcomes were (1) the time to next episode of recurrence, (2) quality of life measures, and (3) adverse events (e.g. allergic reactions, nausea).


Five randomized controlled trials (n = 535), with 260 patients in the intervention arm and 275 in the comparator group met our inclusion criteria. 44 patients (8%) in the antibiotic prophylaxis group and 97 patients (18%) in the comparator group had an episode of cellulitis. Antibiotic prophylaxis significantly reduced the number of patients having recurrent cellulitis, with a risk ratio (RR) of 0.46 (95% CI 0.26-0.79). None of the studies reported severe adverse effects to antibiotics. There was methodological heterogeneity amongst the studies in terms of types of antibiotic used, delivery modes, number of recurrences of cellulitis at study entry, and study quality.


Antibiotic prophylaxis can prevent recurrent cellulitis. Future research should aim to identify the ideal type, dosage, and duration of antibiotics for prophylaxis, as well as to identify the group of patients who will benefit most from antibiotic prophylaxis.

Copyright © 2014 The British Infection Association. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Cellulitis; Prevention; Prophylaxis; Recurrence

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