BACKGROUND: Approximately 2.5% of all hospitalisations in people with liver cirrhosis are for spontaneous bacterial peritonitis. Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis is associated with significant short-term mortality; therefore, it is important to prevent spontaneous bacterial peritonitis in people at high risk of developing it. Antibiotic prophylaxis forms the mainstay preventive method, but this has to be balanced against the development of drug-resistant spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, which is difficult to treat, and other adverse events. Several different prophylactic antibiotic treatments are available; however, there is uncertainty surrounding their relative efficacy and optimal combination.
OBJECTIVES: To compare the benefits and harms of different prophylactic antibiotic treatments for prevention of spontaneous bacterial peritonitis in people with liver cirrhosis using a network meta-analysis and to generate rankings of the different prophylactic antibiotic treatments according to their safety and efficacy.
SEARCH METHODS: We searched CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase, Science Citation Index Expanded, World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform, and trials registers to November 2018 to identify randomised clinical trials in people with cirrhosis at risk of developing spontaneous bacterial peritonitis.
SELECTION CRITERIA: We included only randomised clinical trials (irrespective of language, blinding, or status) in adults with cirrhosis undergoing prophylactic treatment to prevent spontaneous bacterial peritonitis. We excluded randomised clinical trials in which participants had previously undergone liver transplantation, or were receiving antibiotics for treatment of spontaneous bacterial peritonitis or other purposes.
DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: We performed a network meta-analysis with OpenBUGS using Bayesian methods and calculated the odds ratio, rate ratio, and hazard ratio (HR) with 95% credible intervals (CrI) based on an available-case analysis, according to National Institute of Health and Care Excellence Decision Support Unit guidance.
MAIN RESULTS: We included 29 randomised clinical trials (3896 participants; nine antibiotic regimens (ciprofloxacin, neomycin, norfloxacin, norfloxacin plus neomycin, norfloxacin plus rifaximin, rifaximin, rufloxacin, sparfloxacin, sulfamethoxazole plus trimethoprim), and 'no active intervention' in the review. Twenty-three trials (2587 participants) were included in one or more outcomes in the review. The trials that provided the information included people with cirrhosis due to varied aetiologies, with or without other features of decompensation, having ascites with low protein or previous history of spontaneous bacterial peritonitis. The follow-up in the trials ranged from 1 to 12 months. Many of the trials were at high risk of bias, and the overall certainty of evidence was low or very low. Overall, approximately 10% of trial participants developed spontaneous bacterial peritonitis and 15% of trial participants died. There was no evidence of differences between any of the antibiotics and no intervention in terms of mortality (very low certainty) or number of serious adverse events (very low certainty). However, because of the wide CrIs, clinically important differences in these outcomes cannot be ruled out. None of the trials reported health-related quality of life or the proportion of people with serious adverse events. There was no evidence of differences between any of the antibiotics and no intervention in terms of proportion of people with 'any adverse events' (very low certainty), liver transplantation (very low certainty), or the proportion of people who developed spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (very low certainty). The number of 'any' adverse events per participant was fewer with norfloxacin (rate ratio 0.74, 95% CrI 0.59 to 0.94; 4 trials, 546 participants; low certainty) and sulfamethoxazole plus trimethoprim (rate ratio 0.19, 95% CrI 0.02 to 0.81; 1 trial, 60 participants; low certainty) versus no active intervention. There was no evidence of differences between the other antibiotics and no intervention in the number of 'any' adverse events per participant (very low certainty). There were fewer other decompensation events with rifaximin versus no active intervention (rate ratio 0.61, 65% CrI 0.46 to 0.80; 3 trials, 575 participants; low certainty) and norfloxacin plus neomycin (rate ratio 0.06, 95% CrI 0.00 to 0.33; 1 trial, 22 participants; low certainty). There was no evidence of differences between the other antibiotics and no intervention in the number of decompensations events per participant (very low certainty). None of the trials reported health-related quality of life or development of symptomatic spontaneous bacterial peritonitis. One would expect some correlation between the above outcomes, with interventions demonstrating effectiveness across several outcomes. This was not the case. The possible reasons for this include sparse data and selective reporting bias, which makes the results unreliable. Therefore, one cannot draw any conclusions from these inconsistent differences based on sparse data. There was no evidence of any differences in the subgroup analyses (performed when possible) based on whether the prophylaxis was primary or secondary.
FUNDING: the source of funding for five trials were organisations who would benefit from the results of the study; six trials received no additional funding or were funded by neutral organisations; and the source of funding for the remaining 18 trials was unclear.
AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: Based on very low-certainty evidence, there is considerable uncertainty about whether antibiotic prophylaxis is beneficial, and if beneficial, which antibiotic prophylaxis is most beneficial in people with cirrhosis and ascites with low protein or history of spontaneous bacterial peritonitis. Future randomised clinical trials should be adequately powered, employ blinding, avoid postrandomisation dropouts (or perform intention-to-treat analysis), and use clinically important outcomes such as mortality, health-related quality of life, and decompensation events.
Bibliographical noteCopyright © and Moral Rights are retained by the author(s) and/ or other copyright owners. A copy can be downloaded for personal non-commercial research or study, without prior permission or charge. This item cannot be reproduced or quoted extensively from without first obtaining permission in writing from the copyright holder(s). The content must not be changed in any way or sold commercially in any format or medium without the formal permission of the copyright holders.
FunderNational Institute for Health Research Systematic Reviews Programme (project number 16/114/17) and was supported by the Complex Reviews Support Unit, also funded by the National Institute for Health Research (project number 14/178/29). Funding Information: PW was part supported by NIHR UCLH Biomedical Research Centre
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pharmacology (medical)