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Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: Plain Language Summaries [Internet]. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd; 2003-. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD002242

Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: Plain Language Summaries [Internet].

Antibiotic treatment reduces duration and severity of travellers' diarrhoea.

This version published: 2012; Review content assessed as up-to-date: May 21, 2000.

Link to full article: [Cochrane Library]

Plain language summary

Using a pilot system we have categorised this review as: Current question ‐ update pending. (See "Published notes" section for an explanation).

Diarrhoea is a common problem for travellers, particularly travellers going from developed to less developed nations. The illness is frequently caused by a bacterial infection. Although the illness is unlikely to result in death, diarrhoea can disrupt travel plans and lead to severe or incapacitating symptoms. The review showed that antibiotic treatment shortens the duration and severity of diarrhoea. Persons taking antibiotics reported more side effects, but most side effects were minor, or resolved on stopping the antibiotic.


Background: Using a pilot system we have categorised this review as: Current question ‐ update pending (See "Published notes" section for an explanation).

Traveller's diarrhoea is a syndrome frequently encountered in persons crossing an international boundary. Diarrhoea can lead to significant discomfort and interference with travel plans. Bacterial pathogens are a frequent cause of this syndrome. Several antibiotics have been tested for efficacy in reducing the duration and severity of the illness.

Objectives: The aims of this review were to assess the effects of antibiotics on traveller's diarrhoea in relation to duration of illness, severity of illness, and adverse effects of medications.

Search methods: The Cochrane Collaboration Trials Register, MEDLINE, and EMBASE were searched. Additional trials were identified by hand searching. Content experts were contacted.

Selection criteria: All trials in any language in which travellers older than 5 years were randomly allocated to treatment for acute non‐bloody diarrhoea with antibiotics and where the causative organism is not known at allocation.

Data collection and analysis: Two reviewers assessed trial quality and extracted data.

Main results: Twenty published studies met inclusion and quality criteria for inclusion. Twelve studies were placebo‐controlled.

A meta‐analysis for the primary outcome was not feasible. All of the 10 trials reported a significant reduction in duration of diarrhoea in participants treated with antibiotics compared with placebo.

Data from two trials demonstrated a small reduction for antibiotic treated patients in the number of unformed stools passed per each 24 hour period from randomisation up to 72 hours.

Data from six trials demonstrated a greater number of participants being cured of diarrhoea by 72 hours (odds ratio 5.90, 95% confidence interval 4.06 to 8.57).

Data regarding side effects were available from five trials. There was wide variation in the prevalence of side effects reported in different trials. Persons taking antibiotics experienced more side effects than those taking placebo (odds ratio 2.37, 95% confidence interval 1.50 to 3.75).

Authors' conclusions: Antibiotic treatment is associated with shorter duration of diarrhoea but higher incidence of side‐effects. Trials generally do not report duration of post‐treatment diarrhoea using time‐to‐event analyses, and should do.

Editorial Group: Cochrane Infectious Diseases Group.

Publication status: Edited (no change to conclusions).

Citation: de Bruyn G, Hahn S, Borwick A. Antibiotic treatment for travellers' diarrhoea. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2000, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD002242. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD002242. Link to Cochrane Library. [PubMed: 10908534]

Copyright © 2012 The Cochrane Collaboration. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

PMID: 10908534

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