UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Echinacea Reduces Antibiotics by Preventing Respiratory Infections: A Meta-Analysis (ERA-PRIMA) Gancitano, Giuseppe; Mucci, Nicola; Stange, Rainer; Ogal, Mercedes; Vimalanathan, Selvarani; Sreya, Mahfuza; Booker, Anthony; Hadj-Cherif, Bushra; Albrich, Werner C.; Woelkart-Ardjomand, Karin; et al.


Respiratory tract infections (RTIs) are the leading cause of antibiotic prescriptions, primarily due to the risk for secondary bacterial infections. In this study, we examined whether Echinacea could reduce the need for antibiotics by preventing RTIs and their complications, and subsequently investigated its safety profile. A comprehensive search of EMBASE, PubMed, Google Scholar, Cochrane DARE and clinicaltrials.gov identified 30 clinical trials (39 comparisons) studying Echinacea for the prevention or treatment of RTIs in 5652 subjects. Echinacea significantly reduced the monthly RTI occurrence, risk ratio (RR) 0.68 (95% CI 0.61–0.77) and number of patients with ≥1 RTI, RR = 0.75 [95% CI 0.69–0.81] corresponding to an odds ratio 0.53 [95% CI 0.42–0.67]. Echinacea reduced the risk of recurrent infections (RR = 0.60; 95% CI 0.46–0.80), RTI complications (RR = 0.44; 95% CI 0.36–0.54) and the need for antibiotic therapy (RR = 0.60; 95% CI 0.39–0.93), with total antibiotic therapy days reduced by 70% (IRR = 0.29; 95% CI 0.11–0.74). Alcoholic extracts from freshly harvested Echinacea purpurea were the strongest, with an 80% reduction of antibiotic treatment days, IRR 0.21 [95% CI 0.15–0.28]. An equal number of adverse events occurred with Echinacea and control treatment. Echinacea can safely prevent RTIs and associated complications, thereby decreasing the demand for antibiotics. Relevant differences exist between Echinacea preparations.

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