BMJ open 2016 Nov 166(11) e011636 doi 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-011636
Despite recent progress, pneumonia remains the largest infectious killer of children globally. This paper describes outcomes of not treating community-diagnosed fast-breathing pneumonia on patient recovery.
We conducted an exploratory subanalysis of an observational prospective cohort study in Malawi. We recruited children (2-59 months) diagnosed by community health workers with fast-breathing pneumonia using WHO integrated community case management (iCCM) guidelines. Children were followed at days 5 and 14 with a clinical assessment of recovery. We conducted bivariate and multivariable logistic regression for the association between treatment of fast-breathing pneumonia and recovery, adjusting for potential confounders.
We followed up 847 children, of whom 78 (9%) had not been given antibiotics (non-treatment). Non-treatment cases had higher baseline rates of diarrhoea, non-severe hypoxaemia and fever. Non-recovery (persistence or worsening of symptoms) was 13% and 23% at day 5 in those who did receive and those who did not receive co-trimoxazole. Non-recovery, when defined as worsening of symptoms only, at day 5 was 7% in treatment and 10% in non-treatment cases. For both definitions, combined co-trimoxazole and lumefantrine-artemether (LA) treatment trended towards protection (adjusted OR (aOR) 0.28; 95% CI 0.12 to 0.68/aOR 0.29; 95% CI 0.08 to 1.01).
We found that children who did not receive co-trimoxazole treatment had worse clinical outcomes; malaria co-diagnosis and treatment also play a significant role in non-recovery. Further research into non-treatment of fast-breathing pneumonia, using a pragmatic approach with consideration for malaria co-diagnosis and HIV status is needed to guide refinement of community treatment algorithms in this region.