Randomized, open-label trial of azithromycin plus ethambutol vs. clarithromycin plus ethambutol as therapy for Mycobacterium avium complex bacteremia in patients with human immunodeficiency virus infection

Thomas T. Ward, David Rimland, Carol Kauffman, Mark Huycke, Thomas G. Evans, Leonid Heifets

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Disseminated Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) infection continues to be a common opportunistic infection in patients infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The optimal therapy for disseminated MAC infection is unclear. We compared azithromycin plus ethambutol with clarithromycin plus ethambutol in the treatment of disseminated MAC infection in HIV type 1-infected patients, examining the frequency of bacteremia clearance, time to clearance, and study drug tolerance after 16 weeks of therapy. Fifty-nine patients for whom blood cultures were positive for MAC were enrolled in the study from 10 university-affiliated Veterans Affairs Medical Centers. Thirty-seven patients were evaluable for determination of quantitative bacteremia and clinical outcomes. Clearance of bacteremia was seen at the final visit in 37.5% of azithromycin-treated patients and in 85.7% of clarithromycin-treated patients (P = .007). The estimated median time to clearance of bacteremia was also significantly different between the two treatment arms: 4.38 weeks for clarithromycin recipients vs. > 16 weeks for azithromycin recipients (P = .0018). Only one isolate developed macrolide resistance during therapy. Abatement of symptoms, other laboratory-evident abnormalities, and adverse effects were similar in the two groups. At the doses used in this study, clarithromycin/ethambutol produced a more rapid resolution of bacteremia than did azithromycin/ethambutol, and clarithromycin/ethambutol was more effective at sterilization of blood cultures after 16 weeks of therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1278-1285
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Infectious Diseases
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1998


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases

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