Acute cough or lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI) is responsible for 27 million ambulatory visits per year, 70 million lost days of work and an economic impact of $40 billion annually. Antibiotics are widely used, despite guidelines recommending against their routine use, contributing to increasing rates of antibiotic resistance. This will be the first large observational study in the US primary care setting to gather data regarding clinical presentation, evaluation, management, and outcomes for 1400 patients with LRTI.
Specific aims are:
Aim 1 : To describe the causes of LRTI and develop an evidence-base regarding geographic, seasonal and annual variation in primary and urgent care settings. We will compare our clinic-based results with those of the CDC?s laboratory-based surveillance systems for key pathogens.
Aim 2 : To use data from the first 933 patients recruited to develop and validate a clinical decision rule (CDR) that use surveillance data, signs, symptoms, and c-reactive protein (an inflammatory biomarker) to identify patients with a high (> 97%) likelihood of having a self-limited, uncomplicated course. We will then prospectively validate the CDRs using the final 467 patients recruited.
Aim 3 : To externally validate clinical decision rules previously developed by others for the diagnosis of influenza, the diagnosis of pertussis, and to rule out complicated or prolonged course of LRTI.
Aim 4 : To describe the natural history of each pathogen and for common clinical syndromes, to describe the impact on healthcare utilization and work loss, and to use propensity score matching to explore the efficacy of treatments for LRTI to be tested in subsequent clinical trials. To address these aims, we will recruit a diverse sample of 1400 outpatients presenting with LRTI to one of 6 ambulatory sites in 3 US states over 4 years. For each patient, we will gather demographics, desire for antibiotics, signs, symptoms, CRP, and a respiratory PCR panel for 22 viral and bacterial pathogens, as well as 4 weeks of follow-up regarding symptoms, complications, and healthcare utilization. We will use standard (regression, CART) and exploratory (LASSO, neural nets) methods to develop and validate novel CDRs to help physicians better target antibiotic use by identifying patients likely to have an uncomplicated course. We will also prospectively evaluate the accuracy, discrimination, and calibration of 7 previously developed CDRs. Key innovations include: 1) first large observational study of LRTI in US to link signs, symptoms, and clinical follow-up to a state of the art 22 pathogen respiratory panel, 2) largest ambulatory study to gather primary data regarding healthcare utilization, treatment patterns, and natural history of specific pathogens and clinical syndromes in primary care, 3) largest to develop and validate important CDRs that will help target antibiotic prescribing, and 4) will provide guidance for how to use new PCR technologies as they migrate to ambulatory and primary care settings. The tools and strategies developed will be evaluated in subsequent clinical trials for their ability to enhance antibiotic stewardship in the outpatient setting and reduce inappropriate prescribing, and for their impact on patient satisfaction and clinical outcomes.

Public Health Relevance

Public Health Impact Acute lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIs) are among the most common reasons for a healthcare encounter in the United States, with over 27 million ambulatory visits per year for a chief complaint of cough and another 16.9 million for throat symptoms. They are an important cause of morbidity and mortality; among patients with influenza alone, approximately 200,000 are hospitalized and 25,000 die each year. The proposed study will be the largest observational study of LRTI in the US primary and urgent care setting, and will link a highly accurate reference standard test for viral and bacterial pathogens to patient signs and symptoms, the results of a point of care test for inflammation (c-reactive protein), and four weeks of clinical follow-up for 1400 patients with LRTI. This information will help us develop tools for primary care physicians and their patients that will help us better identify patients likely to have an uncomplicated course versus those at risk for complicated, prolonged course or infection with a bacterial pathogen. This work will help physicians and patients reduce inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions, as well as the cost and potential harms of inappropriate antibiotic usage.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)
Research Project (R01)
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Healthcare Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Research (HSQR)
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Miller, Melissa
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University of Georgia
Public Health & Prev Medicine
Schools of Public Health
United States
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