Should fast breathing pneumonia cases be treated with antibiotics? The scientific rationale for revisiting management in low and middle income countries

Document Type



Women and Child Health; Paediatrics and Child Health


Background: Pneumonia is the largest single contributor to child mortality and the problem is more acute in low and middle income countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) currently recommends oral antibiotic treatment for all children with fast breathing pneumonia without danger signs. It is, however, widely acknowledged that most such infections are viral and self-limiting and that the evidence for the guidance is weak.
Rationale: Overuse of antibiotics exposes children to adverse events, increases cost for families, burdens already stretched health care resources and may contribute to development of antibiotic resistance.
Conclusion: There is equipoise regarding utility of antibiotic in case of fast breathing pneumonia and no high quality trial evidence exists. This paper provides further information behind the rationale for conducting non-inferiority trials to test the hypothesis that antibiotics may not be necessary for children with fast breathing as the sole symptomatology.


International Journal of Infectious Diseases