Benzylpenicillin versus wide-spectrum beta-lactam antibiotics as empirical treatment of Haemophilus influenzae-associated lower respiratory tract infections in adults; a retrospective propensity score-matched study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


There is consensus that definitive therapy for infections with H. influenzae should include antimicrobial agents with clinical breakpoints against the bacterium. In Scandinavia, benzylpenicillin is the recommended empirical treatment for community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) except in very severe cases. However, the effect of benzylpenicillin on H. influenzae infections has been debated. The aim of this study was to compare the outcomes of patients given benzylpenicillin with patients given wide-spectrum beta-lactams (WSBL) as empirical treatment of lower respiratory tract H. influenzae infections requiring hospital care. We identified 481 adults hospitalized with lower respiratory tract infection by H. influenzae, bacteremic and non-bacteremic. Overall, 30-day mortality was 9% (42/481). Thirty-day mortality, 30-day readmission rates, and early clinical response rates were compared in patients receiving benzylpenicillin (n = 199) and a WSBL (n = 213) as empirical monotherapy. After adjusting for potential confounders, empirical benzylpenicillin treatment was not associated with higher 30-day mortality neither in a multivariate logistic regression (aOR 2.03 for WSBL compared to benzylpenicillin, 95% CI 0.91–4.50, p = 0.082), nor in a propensity score-matched analysis (aOR 2.14, 95% CI 0.93–4.92, p = 0.075). Readmission rates did not significantly differ between the study groups, but early clinical response rates were significantly higher in the WSBL group (aOR 2.28, 95% CI 1.21–4.31, p = 0.011), albeit still high in both groups (84 vs 81%). In conclusion, despite early clinical response rates being slightly lower for benzylpenicillin compared to WSBL, we found no support for increased mortality or readmission rates in patients empirically treated with benzylpenicillin for lower respiratory tract infections by H. influenzae.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Infectious Medicine


  • Benzylpenicillin, Beta-lactam antibiotics, Community-acquired pneumonia, Empirical antibiotic treatment, Haemophilus influenzae, Propensity score
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1761-1775
JournalEuropean Journal of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases
Issue number9
Early online date2018 Jun 30
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Sep
Publication categoryResearch

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