Interventions to treat chronic infection of the prostate gland (chronic bacterial prostatitis)

Chronic bacterial prostatitis (CBP) involves infection and inflammation of the prostate gland in men of all ages. It can cause problems urinating, including discomfort and pain, increased frequency and urge, or problems emptying the bladder. Bacteria infecting the prostate are the cause of CBP. These bacteria may be sexually transmitted. To cure CBP, antibiotics must be administered for extended periods of time (four weeks or longer), but a permanent cure is not always guaranteed. Other drugs may be combined with antibiotics to improve CBP symptoms. This review found that fluoroquinolones like ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin, lomefloxacin, ofloxacin or prulifloxacin have equivalent effects and equivalent success rates in CBP patients. If atypical bacteria like chlamydia are suspected to cause CBP, macrolide antibiotics such as azithromycin may achieve better results compared to the fluoroquinolone ciprofloxacin. It must be taken into account that some of the studies that have been performed are of poor quality or have been performed on small numbers of participants. More studies are needed, focusing on new agents or on optimized doses of currently prescribed antibiotics.

Authors' conclusions: 

The microbiological and clinical efficacy, as well as the adverse effect profile, of different oral fluoroquinolones are comparable. No conclusions can be drawn regarding the optimal treatment duration of fluoroquinolones in the treatment of CBP caused by traditional pathogens.

Alternative antimicrobial agents tested for the treatment of CBP caused by traditional pathogens are co-trimoxazole, beta-lactams and tetracyclines, but no conclusive evidence can be drawn regarding the role of non-fluoroquinolone antibiotics in the treatment of CBP caused by traditional pathogens.

In patients with CBP caused by obligate intracellular pathogens, macrolides showed higher microbiological and clinical cure rates compared to fluoroquinolones.

Read the full abstract...

Chronic bacterial prostatitis (CBP) is frequently diagnosed in men of fertile age, and is characterized by a disabling array of symptoms, including pain in the pelvic area (for example, perineum, testicles), voiding symptoms (increased frequency and urgency, also at night; pain or discomfort at micturition), and sexual dysfunction. Cure of CBP can be attempted by long-term therapy with antibacterial agents, but relapses are frequent. Few antibacterial agents are able to distribute to the prostatic tissue and achieve sufficient concentrations at the site of infection. These agents include fluoroquinolones, macrolides, tetracyclines and trimethoprim. After the introduction of fluoroquinolones into clinical practice, a number of studies have been performed to optimize the antimicrobial treatment of CBP, and to improve eradication rates and symptom relief.


To assess and compare the efficacy and harm of antimicrobial treatments for chronic bacterial prostatitis.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE (PubMed), EMBASE, other national or international databases and abstracts from conference proceedings on 8 August 2012.

Selection criteria: 

We included all randomized controlled comparisons of one antimicrobial agent versus placebo or one or more comparator antimicrobial agents, combined or not with non-antimicrobial drugs. We also included trials comparing different doses, treatment durations, dosing frequencies, or routes of administration of antimicrobial agents. We excluded studies in which patients were not diagnosed according to internationally recommended criteria, or were not subjected to lower urinary tract segmented tests.

Data collection and analysis: 

Study data were extracted independently by two review authors. Study outcomes were microbiological efficacy (pathogen eradication), clinical efficacy (symptom cure or improvement, or symptom scores) at test-of-cure visits or at follow-up, or both, and adverse effects of therapy. Secondary outcomes included microbiological recurrence rates.

Statistical analysis was performed using a fixed-effect model for microbiological outcomes and a random-effects model for clinical outcomes and adverse effects. The results were expressed as risk ratios for dichotomous outcomes (with 95% confidence intervals) or as standardized mean differences for continuous or non-dichotomous variables.

Main results: 

We identified 18 studies, enrolling a total of 2196 randomized patients. The oral fluoroquinolones ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin, lomefloxacin, ofloxacin and prulifloxacin were compared. There were no significant differences in clinical or microbiological efficacy or in the rate of adverse effects between these fluoroquinolones. In chlamydial prostatitis, (i) azithromycin showed improved eradication rates and clinical cure rates compared to ciprofloxacin, with no significant differences regarding adverse effects; (ii) azithromycin was equivalent to clarithromycin, both microbiologically and clinically; (iii) prulifloxacin appeared to improve clinical symptoms, but not eradication rates, compared to doxycycline. In ureaplasmal prostatitis, the comparisons ofloxacin versus minocycline and azithromycin versus doxycycline showed similar microbiological, clinical and toxicity profiles.

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