PURPOSE: Macrolide antibiotics are frequently prescribed to patients with symptoms of a common cold. Despite their lack of proven antiviral activity, macrolide antibiotics may have anti-inflammatory actions, such as inhibition of mucus secretion and production of interleukins 6 and 8 by epithelial cells. Because the symptoms of rhinovirus colds are attributed to the inflammatory response to infection, we studied the effects of treatment with clarithromycin on the symptomatic and inflammatory response to nasal inoculation with rhinovirus. SUBJECTS AND METHODS: We performed a prospective, double-blind, controlled trial in 24 healthy subjects who were seronegative for antibodies to rhinovirus-16. Subjects were randomly assigned to receive either clarithromycin (500 mg) or trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (800/160 mg, as a control antibiotic) twice a day for 8 days, beginning 24 hours before inoculation with rhinovirus-16. RESULTS: All 12 subjects in each group were infected and developed symptomatic colds. The groups did not differ in the intensity of cold symptoms (median [25th to 75th percentile] score in the clarithromycin group of 25 [5 to 33] versus 21 [11 to 26] in the trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole group, P = 0.86), weight of nasal secretions (25 g [8 to 56 g] versus 12 g [5 to 28 g], P = 0.27), or decline in nasal peak flow during the 8 days following viral inoculation. In both groups, similar and significant increases from baseline were observed in the numbers of total cells and neutrophils, and in the concentrations of interleukins 6 and 8, in nasal lavage fluid during the cold. The changes that we observed did not differ from those in an untreated historical control group. CONCLUSIONS: We conclude that clarithromycin treatment has little or no effect on the severity of cold symptoms or the intensity of neutrophilic nasal inflammation in experimental rhinovirus-16 colds. Copyright (C) 2000 Excerpta Medica Inc.
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