Antibiotic research gives boost to GPs

Research showing that people who take antibiotics develop resistance to them could help GPs dissuade patients who demand the drugs inappropriately, an expert says.

Antibiotics: resistance research (Photograph: SPL)
Antibiotics: resistance research (Photograph: SPL)

Lead researcher Dr Alastair Hay, a GP in Bristol and consultant senior lecturer in primary healthcare at the University of Bristol, said the findings could give GPs more confidence when discussing antibiotics with patients. Dr Hay has called for antibiotic resistance to be given more emphasis in government public information campaigns.

Dr Hay and his team examined 24 studies, which looked at antibiotic resistance in patients prescribed antibiotics in primary care.

They found that within the first two months of antibiotic treatment, patients were 2.5 times more likely to develop antibiotic resistance than controls. A year after treatment, patients remained 30 per cent more likely to be resistant to antibiotics.

The researchers say this residual effect is likely to be an important driver for the 'high endemic levels' of antibiotic resistance in the community.

Dr Hay said that the residual effect of resistance could last longer than a year, but that the study was not able to assess resistance over a longer period from the data available.

The researchers concluded: 'This review provides the evidence needed by clinicians responsible for the prescription of antibiotics in primary care to quantify the link between individual prescribing decisions and antibiotic resistance.'

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