Topical antibiotics for acute bacterial conjunctivitis: Cochrane systematic review and meta-analysis update

Aziz Sheikh, Brian Hurwitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Uncertainty remains about the extent to which findings from our previously published systematic review and meta-analysis of double-blind, randomised controlled trials of topical antibiotics compared with placebo in the management of patients with acute bacterial conjunctivitis treated in secondary care outpatient settings are generalisable to the management of the condition in primary care settings. We updated our review, undertaking searches, methodological assessment, data extraction and analysis according to a pre-defined protocol. In addition to the previous three included studies, we identified two additional double-blind primary care trials, one which compares fusidic acid gel with placebo gel and one which compares chloramphenicol eye drops with placebo eye drops in children. Meta-analyses of clinical and microbiological remission data reveal that topical antibiotics are of benefit in improving early (days 2-5) clinical (relative risk [RR] = 1.24, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.05 to 1.45) and microbiological (RR = 1.77, 95% CI = 1.23 to 2.54) remission rates; later (days 6-10) data reveal that these early advantages in clinical (RR = 1.11, 95% CI = 1.02 to 1.21) and microbiological cure rates are reduced (RR 1.56, 95% CI = 1.17 to 2.09), but persist. Most cases of acute bacterial conjunctivitis resolve spontaneously. While topical antibiotics are associated with significantly improved rates of early (days 2-5) clinical remission, this benefit is marginal for later remission (days 6-10).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)962-4
Number of pages3
JournalBritish Journal of General Practice
Issue number521
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2005


  • Acute Disease
  • Administration, Topical
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Conjunctivitis, Bacterial
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Journal Article
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review


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