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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 Jan 23;(1):CD005437. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD005437.pub2.

Pre-admission antibiotics for suspected cases of meningococcal disease.

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Christian Medical College, Medicine Unit 2, Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India, 632 004.



Meningococcal disease begins suddenly and death can follow within hours. Pre-admission antibiotic therapy aims to prevent delay in starting therapy that occurs if bacterial confirmation is sought before instituting therapy.


To study the effectiveness and safety of pre-admission antibiotics versus no pre-admission antibiotics or placebo and of different pre-admission antibiotic regimens in decreasing mortality and morbidity in people suspected of meningococcal disease.


We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library, 2007, Issue 1), MEDLINE (1966 to February 2007) and EMBASE (1980 to February 2007).


We selected randomised controlled trials (RCTs) or quasi-RCTs, of all people with suspected meningococcal infection. We compared antibiotic treatment versus placebo or no intervention, or different antibiotic treatments administered before admission to hospital or confirmation of the diagnosis.


Two author authors independently assessed quality and extracted data from included trials. We calculated the relative risk (RR) and 95% confidence interval (CI) for dichotomous data. As only one trial fulfilled inclusion criteria, data synthesis was not performed.


No RCTs were found that compared pre-admission antibiotics versus no pre-admission antibiotics or placebo. One open-label RCT evaluated a single dose of intramuscular ceftriaxone versus a single dose of intramuscular long acting (oily) chloramphenicol. Interventions did not differ significantly in mortality (RR 1.2, 95% CI 0.5 to 2.6; N = 510; 349 confirmed meningococcal meningitis; 26 deaths), nor in proportions of survivors who developed neurological sequelae (RR 1.2, 95% CI 0.6 to 2.2; N = 488; 36 with neurological sequelae), or that were classified as clinical failures (RR 0.8, 95% CI 0.4 to 1.8; N = 488, 25 clinical failures). No adverse effects of treatment were seen. No data were available for our secondary outcomes.


We found no reliable evidence to support or refute the use of pre-admission antibiotics for suspected cases of meningococcal disease. Evidence from one RCT-during an epidemic of meningococcal meningitis, indicated that single intramuscular injections of ceftriaxone and long-acting chloramphenicol were equally effective and safe in preventing mortality and morbidity. The choice between these antibiotics would be based on affordability, availability, and patterns of antibiotic resistance.Further RCTs comparing different pre-admission antibiotics, including penicillin, including participants with severe illness are ethically justifiable and are needed to provide reliable evidence to clinicians in differing clinical settings.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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