Antibiotics Not Advised for Chest Colds

According to a recent study, physicians would have to give antibiotics to more than 12,000 patients who are suffering from acute respiratory infections in order to prevent just one of those individuals from becoming hospitalized with pneumonia.

The small benefit that would be realized by that one patient would be far outweighed by the risks that accompany the use of antibiotics.  According to researchers, not only can serious side effects occur from antibiotic use, but these drugs also lead to the promotion of superbugs.

The study's lead author, Dr. Sharon Meropol from Cleveland's Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, states, "This study is actually reasurring to both doctors and patients.  What we said all along (is) that antibiotics are not helpful or not needed for the upper respiratory infections - I think this supports that."

Research is showing that the problem of microbial resistance to certain drugs is growing and that a major contributor to this problem is the overuse of antibiotics.  A recent study showed that a surge of resistant superbugs occurred after the cold and flu season was over, suggesting they had been fed by that season's use of antibiotics.

Another problem is that studies show many doctors give their patients antibiotics for respiratory infections which were caused by viruses.  Antibiotics have no positive effects against such conditions.

However, when a respiratory infection is caused by bacteria, antibiotics can be of benefit and in many cases help to prevent a chest infection from turning into a full-blown cases of pneumonia.  Such conditions are particularly dangerous for young children and the elderly.

Dr. Meropol and her associates studied data from the UK which covered a 20-year period of more than 1.5 million visits to physicians by more than 800,000 people with respiratory infections. Approximately 65 percent of the patients were given antibiotics for their infections.

Over the next 15 days the patients were tracked by their initial doctor to record how many were admitted to the hospital with pneumonia or another serious adverse event.  The research found that 296 people were admitted with penumonia.  That worked out to about 22 people per 100,000 who did not get antibiotics compared to about 18 per 100,000 for those who did.

According to Meropol, that meant 12,255 or more people would need to be treated with antibiotics to prevent just one person from being hospitalized with pneumonia.

The researchers similarly found little difference between the two groups in the number of serious adverse events experienced, such as heart problems, diarrhea , seizures and liver or kidney toxicity.

Posted in Antibiotics Not Advised for Chest Colds

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