(HealthDay News) – Treatment with azithromycin is associated with a lower frequency of long-term carriage of Escherichia coli (E. coli) and a shorter duration of shedding of the bacteria in stool specimens during the 2011 German Shiga toxin-producing enteroaggregative E. coli (STEC) O104:H4 outbreak, according to a study published in the March 14 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Martin Nitschke, MD, of the University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein in Lübeck, Germany, and colleagues compared the duration of bacterial shedding in 65 patients with STEC infection who did (22 patients) and did not (43 patients) receive oral azithromycin therapy. Participants included patients with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) as well as STEC-infected outpatients without manifestation of HUS, enrolled from May 15–July 26, 2011, who were monitored for a mean of 39.3 days after onset of clinical symptoms.

The researchers found that long-term STEC carriage (>28 days) was observed in one antibiotic-treated patient (4.5%) compared with 35 untreated patients (81.4%). All antibiotic-treated patients had at least three STEC negative stool specimens after the completion of treatment, and no recurrence of STEC. Fifteen patients who initially were not treated with antibiotics and were long-term STEC carriers received oral azithromycin for three days and subsequently had negative stool specimens.

“Treatment with azithromycin was associated with a lower frequency of long-term STEC O104:H4 carriage,” the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to pharmaceutical and health care companies. Some of the patients enrolled in the study were also enrolled in a separate study funded by Alexion Pharma.

Full Text (subscription or payment may be required)