This meta-analysis aimed to investigate the efficacy and safety of flavonoids in treating viral acute respiratory tract infections (ARTIs).
Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were entered into meta-analyses performed separately for each indication. Efficacy analyses were based on changes in disease-specific symptom scores. Safety was analyzed based on the pooled data from all eligible trials, by comparing the incidence of adverse events between flavonoids and the control.
In this study, thirty RCTs (n = 5,166) were included. In common cold, results showed that the flavonoids group decreased total cold intensity score (CIS), the sum of sum of symptom intensity differences (SSID) of CIS, and duration of inability to work vs. the control group. In influenza, the flavonoids group improved the visual analog scores for symptoms. In COVID-19, the flavonoids group decreased the time taken for alleviation of symptoms, time taken for SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR clearance, the RT-PCR positive subjects at day 7, time to achievement of the normal status of symptoms, patients needed oxygen, patients hospitalized and requiring mechanical ventilation, patients in ICU, days of hospitalization, and mortality vs. the control group. In acute non-streptococcal tonsillopharyngitis, the flavonoids group decreased the tonsillitis severity score (TSS) on day 7. In acute rhinosinusitis, the flavonoids group decreased the sinusitis severity score (SSS) on day 7, days off work, and duration of illness. In acute bronchitis, the flavonoids group decreased the bronchitis severity score (BSS) on day 7, days off work, and duration of illness. In bronchial pneumonia, the flavonoids group decreased the time to symptoms disappearance, the level of interleukin-6 (IL-6), interleukin-8 (IL-8), and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α). In upper respiratory tract infections, the flavonoids group decreased total CIS on day 7 and increased the improvement rate of symptoms. Furthermore, the results of the incidence of adverse reactions did not differ between the flavonoids and the control group.
Results from this systematic review and meta-analysis suggested that flavonoids were efficacious and safe in treating viral ARTIs including the common cold, influenza, COVID-19, acute non-streptococcal tonsillopharyngitis, acute rhinosinusitis, acute bronchitis, bronchial pneumonia, and upper respiratory tract infections. However, uncertainty remains because there were few RCTs per type of ARTI and many of the RCTs were small and of low quality with a substantial risk of bias. Given the limitations, we suggest that the conclusions need to be confirmed on a larger scale with more detailed instructions in future studies.Systematic Review Registration: inplasy.com/inplasy-2021-8-0107/, identifier: INPLASY20218010.