Busting the Myth of Full Course Antibiotics

sntibioticsIf your doctor prescribes antibiotics for some malady you are experiencing and tells you to take the full course, even if you feel better, should you do it? Not according to research recently published in the British Medical Journal.

The emphasis from healthcare professionals to take the full course of antibiotics has been born out of a fear of under-treatment in hopes of preventing patients from developing an antibiotic resistance. In fact the World Health Organization, in materials supporting Antibiotic Awareness Week 2016, stated, “always complete the full prescription, even if you feel better, because stopping treatment early promotes the growth of drug-resistant bacteria.”

But Martin J Llewelyn, professor of infectious diseases at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, found the opposite to be true. He and his team of researchers discovered there is no evidence that stopping antibiotic treatment early encourages antibiotic resistance. However, taking antibiotics longer than necessary actually does increase the risk.

Researchers found that antibiotics were effective in roughly half the amount of time normally prescribed by doctors. The standard course of antibiotic treatment for an ear infection is 10 days, but it can normally be treated successfully in only five days. The same is true for pneumonia. Strep throat normally takes 3-6 days of treatment, but a full course of 10 days is generally prescribed.

There is a growing fear in the medical community that a strain of antibiotic-resistant superbugs is emerging and taking more antibiotics than necessary could hasten their rise. Researchers are encouraging doctors to change their approach to prescribing antibiotics instead of following convention with a one-size-fits-all approach.

Click here to read more: BMJ 2017;358:j3418

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