Protein test to cut antibiotic use

Near-patient C-reactive protein test leads to 42% drop in antibiotic use.

C-reactive protein tests can reduce antibiotic prescribing for lower respiratory tract infections by more than 40 per cent, new research suggests.

Researchers examined the impact of point-of-care C-reactive protein testing on prescribing of antibiotics for lower respiratory tract infections. The study involved 431 patients across 20 GP practices in the Netherlands.

Testing for C-reactive protein led to a 42 per cent reduction in the number of patients prescribed antibiotics.

A similar reduction was achieved by providing additional training on enhanced communication skills to GPs in the study. A combination of both approaches led to a greater reduction and could have the most effective results in terms of cutting antibiotic prescribing, the researchers suggested.

Gloucestershire GP Dr Mike Thomas, a member of General Practice Airways Group, said that previous studies had shown only small benefits for C-reactive protein testing for lower respiratory tract infections.

He pointed out that, although in Scandanavia GPs routinely use near-patient C-reactive protein tests, most UK GPs will have to send samples to a laboratory.

'For C-reactive protein tests to be used more widely for lower respiratory tract infections, GPs would need to have access to a near-patient test,' he said.

'This needs to be thought out at a national level,' he added. 'GPs would need to be provided with the kit and remunerated for it.'

Dr Thomas recently worked on a study which found that antibiotic prescribing for lower respiratory tract infections reduced hospital admissions.

'Undoubtedly, there are some people with lower respiratory tract infections who don't need antibiotics, but there are some people who do,' he said.

'The issue is around making a firm diagnosis. And that really comes down to clinical acumen.'

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