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Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (CCLM)

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Volume 56, Issue 1


Effects of procalcitonin testing on antibiotic use and clinical outcomes in patients with upper respiratory tract infections. An individual patient data meta-analysis

Jonas Odermatt / Natalie Friedli / Alexander Kutz / Matthias Briel
  • Basel Institute for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University Hospital Basel, Basel, Switzerland
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Heiner C. Bucher
  • Basel Institute for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University Hospital Basel, Basel, Switzerland
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Mirjam Christ-Crain
  • Division of Endocrinology, Diabetology and Clinical Nutrition, University Hospital Basel, Basel, Switzerland
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Olaf Burkhardt / Tobias Welte / Beat Mueller / Philipp Schuetz
  • Corresponding author
  • University Department of Medicine, Kantonsspital Aarau, Aarau, Switzerland
  • Medical Faculty, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2017-06-29 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cclm-2017-0252



Several trials found procalcitonin (PCT) helpful for guiding antibiotic treatment in patients with lower respiratory tract infections and sepsis. We aimed to perform an individual patient data meta-analysis on the effects of PCT guided antibiotic therapy in upper respiratory tract infections (URTI).


A comprehensive search of the literature was conducted using PubMed (MEDLINE) and Cochrane Library to identify relevant studies published until September 2016. We reanalysed individual data of adult URTI patients with a clinical diagnosis of URTI. Data of two trials were used based on PRISMA-IPD guidelines. Safety outcomes were (1) treatment failure defined as death, hospitalization, ARI-specific complications, recurrent or worsening infection at 28 days follow-up; and (2) restricted activity within a 14-day follow-up. Secondary endpoints were initiation of antibiotic therapy, and total days of antibiotic exposure.


In total, 644 patients with a follow up of 28 days had a final diagnosis of URTI and were thus included in this analysis. There was no difference in treatment failure (33.1% vs. 34.0%, OR 1.0, 95% CI 0.7–1.4; p=0.896) and days with restricted activity between groups (8.0 vs. 8.0 days, regression coefficient 0.2 (95% CI –0.4 to 0.9), p=0.465). However, PCT guided antibiotic therapy resulted in lower antibiotic prescription (17.8% vs. 51.0%, OR 0.2, 95% CI 0.1–0.3; p<0.001) and in a 2.4 day (95% CI –2.9 to –1.9; p<0.001) shorter antibiotic exposure compared to control patients.


PCT guided antibiotic therapy in the primary care setting was associated with reduced antibiotic exposure in URTI patients without compromising outcomes.

This article offers supplementary material which is provided at the end of the article.

Keywords: lower antibiotic exposure; meta-analysis; primary care setting; procalcitonin; procalcitonin guided antibiotic prescription; upper respiratory tract infection


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About the article

Corresponding author: Prof. Philipp Schuetz, MD, MPH, University Department of Medicine, Kantonsspital Aarau, Tellstrasse, 5001 Aarau, Switzerland, Phone: +41628389524, Fax: +41628386945

Received: 2017-03-23

Accepted: 2017-05-02

Published Online: 2017-06-29

Published in Print: 2017-11-27

Author contributions: Mr Odermatt, Ms Friedli, Mr Kutz and Mr. Schuetz had full access to all of the data in the study and take responsibility for the integrity of the data and performed the statistical work, and drafted the manuscript. All authors helped to interpret the findings, read and revised the manuscript critically for important intellectual content. All the authors have accepted responsibility for the entire content of this submitted manuscript and approved submission.

Availability of data and material: The datasets used and/or analysed during the current study is available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Research funding: This investigator-initiated PARTI trial was sponsored by a grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation (3300C0-107772) and by the Association for the Promotion of Science and Postgraduate Training of the University Hospital Basel. Brahms AG provided assay and kit material related to the study. Drs. Christ-Crain, Mueller, and Schuetz, received support from BRAHMS to attend meetings and fulfilled speaking engagements. Drs. Schuetz, Kutz, Christ-Crain and Mueller received support from bioMérieux to attend meetings and fulfilled speaking engagements. Heiner C. Bucher has received research support from BRAHMS. Dr. Schuetz and Dr. Christ-Crain were supported by funds of the Freiwillige Akademische Gesellschaft, the Department of Endocrinology, Diabetology and Clinical Nutrition, and the Department of Clinical Chemistry, all Basel, Switzerland.

Employment or leadership: Dr. Mueller has served as a consultant and received research support from BRAHMS and bioMérieux.

Honorarium: None declared.

Competing interests: The funding organisation(s) played no role in the study design; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; or in the decision to submit the report for publication.

Citation Information: Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (CCLM), Volume 56, Issue 1, Pages 170–177, ISSN (Online) 1437-4331, ISSN (Print) 1434-6621, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cclm-2017-0252.

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