Azithromycin in the Successful Management of COVID-19: A Family Physician's Perspective

Cureus. 2021 Apr 20;13(4):e14574. doi: 10.7759/cureus.14574.


The novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-COV-2), causing coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19), has been responsible for approximately 75 million cases and 1.6 million deaths globally as of December 22, 2020. Currently, no treatment modalities or management options have been recommended by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) prior to patient hospitalization and supplemental oxygen requirement. This poses a unique challenge for outpatient primary care physicians, who are often tasked with initial care of patients early on in their disease course. During the pandemic, our family practice provided medical care to approximately 2,000 families located in the surrounding Brooklyn community. With only telemedicine at our disposal, our clinic was tasked with treating patients presenting remotely who may or may not have had COVID-19 – a large clinical diagnosis was made given the absence of in-person testing. Often co-administered, Azithromycin was considered a supportive agent that may or may not have increased the benefit of hydroxychloroquine. However, Azithromycin may perform well on its own for various reasons as it has been shown to have antiviral activity against other RNA viruses, anti-inflammatory properties, and antiviral effects within bronchial epithelial cells. Azithromycin has also shown efficacy as an add-on treatment for reducing asthma exacerbations – pertinent to the pro-inflammatory pulmonary conditions in COVID-19 progression – and may even prevent or treat bacterial co-infection in patients with SARS-COV-2. In order to investigate the association between Azithromycin and the COVID-19 disease process, our clinical study retrospectively identified patients who were prescribed Azithromycin (500 mg on day one + 250 mg on days two to five) during the peak months of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City from March 2020 through May 2020. All patients prescribed Azithromycin with suspicion of COVID-19 infection were interviewed via telephone regarding their constellation of symptoms, compliance with the prescribed antibiotic for the intended course, symptom duration prior to and following antibiotic course initiation, as well as any further complications of their illness, if present. Ultimately, the majority of the patients who were interviewed over the phone concluded that a full course of Azithromycin helped improve their symptoms during their infection with COVID-19. Outcomes and complications in patients treated with Azithromycin were noteworthy in that there were no reports of pulmonary complications or deterioration of pulmonary function after treatment (e.g., no shortness of breath, wheezing, dyspnea, etc.), although some patients did experience residual coughing and nasal discharge post-treatment. We believe further study of this treatment in the setting of experimental, randomized controlled trials may reveal the benefits of Azithromycin in terms of reducing infection severity, length, and limiting the incidence of complications in patients with COVID-19.

PMID:34035996 | PMC:PMC8135656 | DOI:10.7759/cureus.14574