In order to evaluate the use of an algorithm based on a procalcitonin (PCT) cut-off value as a means of guiding antibiotic therapy, 319 hospitalised children with uncomplicated community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) were randomised 1:1 to be treated on the basis of the algorithm or in accordance with standard guidelines. The children in the PCT group did not receive antibiotics if their PCT level upon admission was <0.25 ng/mL, and those receiving antibiotics from the time of admission were treated until their PCT level was >0.25 ng/mL. The final analysis was based on 155 patients in the PCT group and 155 in the control group. In comparison with the controls, the PCT group received significantly fewer antibiotic prescriptions (85.8% vs 100%; p < 0.05), were exposed to antibiotics for a shorter time (5.37 vs 10.96 days; p < 0.05), and experienced fewer antibiotic-related adverse events (3.9% vs 25.2%; p < 0.05), regardless of CAP severity. There was no significant between-group difference in recurrence of respiratory symptoms and new antibiotic prescription in the month following enrollment. The results of this first prospective study using a PCT cut-off value to guide antibiotic therapy for pediatric CAP showed that this approach can significantly reduce antibiotic use and antibiotic-related adverse events in children with uncomplicated disease. However, because the study included mainly children with mild to moderate CAP and the risk of the use of the algorithm-based approach was not validated in a relevant number of severe cases, further studies are needed before it can be used in routine clinical practice.
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