Background: Chlamydia trachomatis infection is the most common sexually transmitted infectious disease and carries a risk of complications. However, the optimal treatment for rectal chlamydial infection remains unclear. Objectives: To compare the efficacy of doxycycline and azithromycin for the treatment of rectal chlamydia by undertaking a systematic review and meta-analysis of published data. Methods: We searched PubMed, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, Web of Science and clinicaltrials.gov databases from inception to 7 July 2021 for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and observational studies that compared the efficacy of doxycycline and single-dose azithromycin on rectal chlamydia cure rates. Data were synthesized using a random-effects model, and subgroup analysis was conducted. Results: All included studies were conducted in developed countries. Two RCTs and nine observational studies, with a total of 2457 patients, were analysed. Doxycycline had a higher microbiological cure rate than azithromycin (risk ratio = 1.21; 95% CI = 1.15-1.28; P < 0.05). Pooled results from two RCTs also revealed a higher microbiological cure rate for doxycycline than azithromycin (risk ratio = 1.27; 95% CI = 1.20-1.35; P < 0.05). The results remained consistent in subgroups of different study designs, countries and sexes. Conclusions: On the basis of our findings, we recommend doxycycline rather than azithromycin as a first-line treatment for rectal chlamydia in developed countries. More RCTs from developing countries are warranted.
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