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Antibiotics don't help patients' viruses

Press AssociationPress Association 4/07/2016

Patients do not suffer from serious problems when doctors refuse to prescribe antibiotics for conditions such as coughs, colds, sore throats and ear infections, research suggests.

A British study found that GP practices that have lower prescribing rates for antibiotics - part of a drive to cut growing resistance to the drugs - did not see significantly more complications in patients.

However, they did have slightly higher rates of pneumonia and quinsy, a rare complication of sore throats, the study found.

The team, from King's College London, estimated that an average-sized GP practice with 7000 patients that cut its antibiotic prescribing by 10 per cent would see one extra case of pneumonia each year.

They also estimated the same practice could see one extra case of quinsy every 10 years.

Overall, researchers found no higher rates of serious bacterial complications, including meningitis, mastoiditis (infection of the mastoid bone behind the ear), empyema (infection of the lining of the lungs), brain abscess or Lemierre's syndrome (an infection of the jugular vein in the neck).

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, involved analysing patient records from 610 UK general practices covering more than four million patients.

Lead author, Professor Martin Gulliford, said most respiratory tract infections are caused by viruses and will improve without treatment.

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