Home Treatment of Pneumonia Proved Safe, Effective

It is just as safe and effective to treat children with severe pneumonia at home as in hospitals, a new study done in Pakistan by Boston University School of Public Health researchers concluded. WHO and the U.S. Agency for International Development supported the study, which was announced Jan. 4 by WHO and reported last week in The Lancet.

The study involved 2037 children with severe pneumonia who were randomly assigned to receive injectable antibiotics in a hospital or antibiotic pills at home. WHO said pneumonia is the leading killer of children under five around the world. About 60 percent of pneumonia cases in the developing world are caused by bacteria and can be treated with antibiotics, while most cases in developed countries are viral. The study found there were 87 treatment failures in the hospitalized group and 77 in the home group. Five children died during the study -- four were in the hospitalized group and one at home.

"The potential impact of these results is enormous," said the article’s co-author Dr. Shamim Qazi, Medical Officer with WHO's Department of Child and Adolescent Health and Development. "We will be updating WHO guidelines in 2008 to reflect this new evidence." Dr. Alfred Bartlett, USAID senior adviser for Child Survival, said implementing the finding in programs around the world "will increase access to critical care in disadvantaged communities and support the potential to diagnose and treat severe pneumonia by community health workers. These findings promise to build upon an existing approach endorsed by WHO and UNICEF for treatment of non-severe pneumonia that is already contributing to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals."

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