Interventions for the prevention and management of oral thrush associated with HIV infection in adults and children

Oral candidiasis (thrush) associated with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection occurs commonly and recurs frequently, often presenting as an initial manifestation of the disease. Interventions aimed at preventing and treating HIV-associated oral thrush form an integral component of maintaining the quality of life for affected individuals. This review evaluated the effects of interventions in preventing or treating oral thrush in children and adults with HIV infection. Thirty three trials (n=3445) were included. Twenty two trials investigated treatment and eleven trials investigate prevention. There was no difference with regard to clinical cure between fluconazole compared to ketoconazole, itraconazole, clotrimazole and posaconazole. Fluconazole, gentian violet and ketoconazole were superior to nystatin. Compared to placebo and no treatment, fluconazole was effective in preventing clinical episodes from occurring. Continuous fluconazole was better than intermittent treatment. Insufficient evidence was found to come to any conclusion about the effectiveness of clotrimazole, nystatin, amphotericin B, itraconazole, ketoconazole or chlorhexidine with regard to OC prophylaxis.

Authors' conclusions: 

Five new studies were added to the review, but their results do not alter the final conclusion of the review.

Implications for practice
Due to there being only one study in children, it is not possible to make recommendations for treatment or prevention of OC in children. Amongst adults, there were few studies per comparison. Due to insufficient evidence, no conclusion could be made about the effectiveness of clotrimazole, nystatin, amphotericin B, itraconazole or ketoconazole with regard to OC prophylaxis. In comparison to placebo, fluconazole is an effective preventative intervention. However, the potential for resistant Candida organisms to develop, as well as the cost of prophylaxis, might impact the feasibility of implementation. No studies were found comparing fluconazole with other interventions. The direction of findings suggests that ketoconazole, fluconazole, itraconazole and clotrimazole improved the treatment outcomes.

Implications for research
It is encouraging that low-cost alternatives are being tested, but more research needs to be on in this area and on interventions like gentian violet and other less expensive anti-fungal drugs to treat OC. More well-designed treatment trials with larger samples are needed to allow for sufficient power to detect differences in not only clinical, but also mycological, response and relapse rates. There is also a strong need for more research to be done on the treatment and prevention of OC in children as it is reported that OC is the most frequent fungal infection in children and adolescents who are HIV positive. More research on the effectiveness of less expensive interventions also needs to be done in resource-poor settings. Currently few trials report outcomes related to quality of life, nutrition, or survival. Future researchers should consider measuring these when planning trials. Development of resistance remains under-studied and more work must be done in this area. It is recommended that trials be more standardised and conform more closely to CONSORT.

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Background: 

Oral candidiasis (OC) associated with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection occurs commonly and recurs frequently, often presenting as an initial manifestation of the disease. Left untreated, these lesions contribute considerably to the morbidity associated with HIV infection. Interventions aimed at preventing and treating HIV-associated oral candidal lesions form an integral component of maintaining the quality of life for affected individuals.

Objectives: 

To determine the effects of any intervention in preventing or treating OC in children and adults with HIV infection.

Search strategy: 

The search strategy was based on that of the Cochrane HIV/AIDS Review Group. The following electronic databases were searched for randomised controlled trials for the years 1982 to 2005: Medline, AIDSearch, EMBASE and CINAHL. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effectiveness, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) were also searched through May 2005. The abstracts of relevant conferences, including the International Conferences on AIDS and the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, as indexed by AIDSLINE, were also reviewed. The strategy was iterative, in that references of included studies were searched for additional references. All languages were included.

The updated database search was done for the period 2005 up to 2009. The following databases were searched: Medline, EMBASE, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effectiveness and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) in The Cochrane Library. AIDSearch was not searched for the updated search as it ceased publication during 2008.

Selection criteria: 

Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of palliative, preventative or curative therapy were considered, irrespective of whether the control group received a placebo. Participants were HIV positive adults and children.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two authors independently assessed the methodological quality of the trials and extracted data. Study authors were contacted for additional data where necessary.

Main results: 

For the first publication of the review in 2006, forty studies were retrieved. Twenty eight trials (n=3225) met inclusion criteria. During the update search for the review a, further six studies were identified. Of these, five met the inclusion criteria and were included in the review. The review now includes 33 studies (n=3445): 22 assessing treatment and 11 assessing prevention of oropharyngeal candidiasis. Six studies were done in developing countries, 16 in the United States of America and the remainder in Europe.

Treatment
Treatment was assessed in the majority of trials looking at both clinical and mycological cures. In the majority of comparisons there was only one trial. Compared to nystatin, fluconazole favoured clinical cure in adults (1 RCT; n=167; RR 1.69; 95% CI 1.27 to 2.23). There was no difference with regard to clinical cure between fluconazole compared to ketoconazole (2 RCTs; n=83; RR 1.27; 95% CI 0.97 to 1.66), itraconazole (2 RCTs; n=434; RR 1.05; 95% CI 0.94 to 1.16), clotrimazole (2 RCTs; n=358; RR 1.14; 95% CI 0.92 to 1.42) or posaconazole (1 RCT; n=366; RR1.32; 95% CI 0.36 to 4.83). Two trials compared different dosages of fluconazole with no difference in clinical cure. When compared with clotrimazole, both fluconazole (2 RCTs; n=358; RR 1.47; 95% CI 1.16 to 1.87) and itraconazole (1 RCT; n=123; RR 2.20; 95% CI 1.43 to3.39) proved to be better for mycological cure. Both gentian violet (1 RCT; n=96; RR 5.28; 95% CI 1.23 to 22.55) and ketoconazole (1 RCT; n=92; RR 5.22; 95% CI 1.21 to 22.53) were superior to nystatin in bringing about clinical cure. A single trial compared gentian violet with lemon juice and lemon grass with no significant difference in clinical cure between the groups.

Prevention
Successful prevention was defined as the prevention of a relapse while receiving prophylaxis. Fluconazole was compared with placebo in five studies (5 RCTs; n=599; RR 0.61; 95% CI 0.5 to 0.74) and with no treatment in another (1 RCT; n=65; RR 0.16; 95% CI 0.08 to 0.34). In both instances the prevention of clinical episodes was favoured by fluconazole. Comparing continuous fluconazole treatment with intermittent treatment (2 RCTs; n=891; RR 0.65; 95% CI 0.23 to 1.83), there was no significant difference between the two treatment arms. Chlorhexidine was compared with normal saline in a single study with no significant difference between the treatment arms.

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