Short-term oral antibiotics may work just as well as long-term treatments

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A recent study suggests that for some infections, short-course oral antibiotics work just as well as long course antibiotics for infections.

Antibiotic resistance is on the rise. Bacterial microorganisms have begun to recognise the methods by which antibiotics act in order to kill them. When these resistant bacteria multiply, it leaves the growing bacterial colony resistant to the medication. This renders the medication useless and ineffective in controlling the infection.

Researchers Dawson-Hahn, Elizabeth E., and colleagues recently conducted a study concerning the development of bacterial resistance with short or long-term acting oral antibiotics. This research, conducted in the United States and the United Kingdom, was recently published in the journal, Family Practice.

During their research, they identified reviews of randomized controlled trials. These randomized control trials included children and adults with bacterial infections. All of the patients were treated with oral antibiotics.

Through their literature review, they found that longer treatments of antibiotics increased the development of resistance. They further identified that a long treatment of antibiotics was normally prescribed because it has been the practised standard. However, most of these antibiotic courses have not been evaluated in the current health environment. The research done here demonstrated the importance of evaluating the effectiveness of oral antibiotics to suit patients in the current environment.

The researchers found that there was an actual difference in the outcomes of children and adults for various kinds of infections. Children were tested for Group A streptococcal tonsilo-pharyngitis, community-acquired pneumonia, and urinary tract infection. Adults were tested for acute bacterial sinusitis, uncomplicated cystitis in non-pregnant women or community-acquired pneumonia. The results showed that shorter-coursed durations of oral antibiotics were effective for many of the diseases studied. This includes urinary tract infections, community-acquired pneumonia, sinusitis, and throat and ear infections. Shorter courses of antibiotics were also associated with fewer adverse events.

This is the first study to compare the effects of short and long-term treatments of antibiotics. This important study indicates that short courses of oral antibiotics are generally as effective as longer courses. The effects on antibiotic resistance have to be studied further. However, the courses of oral antibiotics should be evaluated given the large amount of evidence that the shorter courses of antibiotics were as effective as the long courses of oral antibiotics.

Written by Dr. Apollina Sharma, MBBS, GradDip EXMD

Reference: Dawson-Hahn, Elizabeth E., et al. “Short-course versus long-course oral antibiotic treatment for infections treated in outpatient settings: a review of systematic reviews.” Family practice 34.5 (2017): 511-519.

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