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ASEPTIC: primary antibiotic prophylaxis using co-trimoxazole to prevent SpontanEous bacterial PeritoniTIs in Cirrhosis—study protocol for an interventional randomised controlled trial

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Stuart McPhersonORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2022, The Author(s).Background: Bacterial infection is a major cause of mortality in patients with cirrhosis. Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP) is a serious and common infection in patients with cirrhosis and ascites. Secondary prophylactic antibiotic therapy has been shown to improve outcomes after an episode of SBP but primary prophylaxis to prevent the first episode of SBP remains contentious. The aim of this trial is to assess whether primary antibiotic prophylaxis with co-trimoxazole improves overall survival compared to placebo in adults with cirrhosis and ascites. Methods: The ASEPTIC trial is a multicentre, placebo-controlled, double-blinded, randomised controlled trial (RCT) in England, Scotland, and Wales. Patients aged 18 years and older with cirrhosis and ascites requiring diuretic treatment or paracentesis, and no current or previous episodes of SBP, are eligible, subject to exclusion criteria. The trial aims to recruit 432 patients from at least 30 sites. Patients will be randomised in a 1:1 ratio to receive either oral co-trimoxazole 960 mg or an identical placebo once daily for 18 months, with 6 monthly follow-up visits thereafter (with a maximum possible follow-up period of 48 months, and a minimum of 18 months). The primary outcome is overall survival. Secondary outcomes include the time to the first incidence of SBP, hospital admission rates, incidence of other infections (including Clostridium difficile) and antimicrobial resistance, patients’ health-related quality of life, health and social care resource use, incidence of cirrhosis-related decompensation events, liver transplantation, and treatment-related serious adverse events. Discussion: This trial will investigate the efficacy, safety, and cost-effectiveness of co-trimoxazole for patients with liver cirrhosis and ascites to determine whether this strategy improves clinical outcomes. Given there are no treatments that improve survival in decompensated cirrhosis outside of liver transplant, if the trial has a positive outcome, we anticipate widespread adoption of primary antibiotic prophylaxis. Trial registration: NCT043955365. Registered on 18 April 2020. Research ethical approval was granted by the Research Ethics Committee (South Central – Oxford B; REC 19/SC/0311) and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Publication metadata

Author(s): Crocombe D, Ahmed N, Balakrishnan I, Bordea E, Chau M, China L, Corless L, Danquah V, Dehbi H-M, Dillon JF, Forrest EH, Freemantle N, Gear DP, Hollywood C, Hunter R, Jeyapalan T, Kallis Y, McPherson S, Munteanu I, Portal J, Richardson P, Ryder SD, Virk A, Wright G, O'Brien A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Trials

Year: 2022

Volume: 23

Issue: 1

Print publication date: 01/12/2022

Online publication date: 27/09/2022

Acceptance date: 08/09/2022

Date deposited: 17/10/2022

ISSN (electronic): 1745-6215

Publisher: BioMed Central Ltd


DOI: 10.1186/s13063-022-06727-6

PubMed id: 36167573


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Funder referenceFunder name
National Institute of Health and Care Research (NIHR) HTA grant number 17/67/01