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Friday 26th April 2019

Doctors give out too many antibiotics

17th January 2012

Doctors may be prescribing antibiotics to patients who do not actually have bacteria in their urine, according to a recent US study.


The researchers found that, in the average case, doctors did not think before prescribing antibiotics.

Even if a person's urine tests positive for bacteria, they may be able to fight the infection on their own.
In such cases, a bacterial infection will probably disappear within a few days of first appearing.
Peter Gross, an infectious diseases specialist at Hackensack University Medical Centre in New Jersey, who was not involved in the new study, said that physicians automatically thought of treating small amounts of bacteria using antibiotics.
He said that many doctors did so simply because they were afraid that patients would develop more serious infections, while others genuinely confused small bacterial traces in urine samples for full-blown urinary tract infections (UTIs).
For the study, the researchers analysed medical records of 339 patients whose urine had tested positive for bacteria.
Most of the people were older men, and most of them had come to hospitals or emergency rooms for other reasons than urinary troubles.
The researchers determined, based on patient records, that 183 of the men had not shown any sign of having a UTI.
On the other hand, 156 patients did in fact have a raised temperature, and pain while urinating, both of which are common UTI symptoms.
Of the 183 men who did not seem to have a UTI, 60 men were given antibiotics in breach of guidelines by the Infectious Disease Society.
The same guidelines only recommend treating small colonies of bacteria using antibiotics in the case where the patient is a pregnant woman, or when the patient is using a catheter.
However, the doctors in the study were not completely oblivious to their patients' actual state of health.
The statistics revealed that doctors were much more likely to prescribe antibiotics if the patient displayed symptoms in common with having a UTI.
The researchers also studied the side-effects of the antibiotics that the doctors prescribed.
Prescribing antibiotics when they are not needed leads to drug resistance, and some scientists have wondered whether or not a time may come when antibiotics are totally powerless against the majority of diseases.

Gross said that patients needed to be educated about antibiotics, just as doctors did, and that less was often more when it came to using such drugs.


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