Not all antibiotics are equal in their risk of CDI. Among the common antibiotics used for respiratory tract infections, doxycycline appears to be the least likely to be associated with CDI.
A population-based case-control study of community-acquired CDI found that while recent exposure increased the risk of CDI for fluoroquinolones, macrolides, cephalosporins, sulfonamides and trimethoprim and penicillins, the risk of CDI with tetracycline use was not increased (1). Similar findings (with the exception of sulfonamides also appearing risk-neutral) have been reported by others (2).
Among patients receiving ceftriaxone, receipt of doxycycline has been associated with protection against development of CDI (3). A 2018 systematic review and meta-analysis also concluded that tetracyclines were associated with a decreased risk of CDI; OR 0.55 (95% CI 0,40-0.75) for doxycycline alone (4).
The most likely explanation for why doxycycline may be associated with lower risk of CDI is its in vitro activity against anaerobes, including C. difficile. Additionally, because of its ability to inhibit protein synthesis, doxycycline may attenuate C. difficile toxin production. Its high bioavailability and maximal absorption from the upper gastrointestinal tract may also mitigate its impact on gut flora, further reducing its risk of CDI (3).
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1. Delaney JAC, Dial S, Barkun A et al. Antimicrobial drugs and community-acquired Clostridium difficile-associated disease-UK. Emerg Infect Dis 2007:13;761-63. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2738472
2. Kuntz JL, Chirchilles EA, et al. Incidence of and risk factors for community-associated Clostridium difficile infection : A nested case-control study. BMC Infect Dis 2011;11:194. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3154181/
3. Doernberg SB, Winston LG, Deck DH, et al. Does doxycycline protect against development of Clostridium difficile infection. Clin Infec Dis 2012;44:615-20. https://www.academia.edu/7814406/Does_Doxycycline_Protect_Against_Development_of_Clostridium_difficile_Infection
4. Tariq R, Cho J, Kapoor S, et al. Low risk of primary Clostridium difficile infection with tetracyclines: a systematic review and metanalysis. Clin Infect Dis 2018; 766:514-27. https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/66/4/514/4161552
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