AN ANTIBIOTIC commonly prescribed for infections including coughs and bronchitis is ineffective at relieving symptoms and may actually be harmful if overused, according to a new European study.
The study of 2061 adults, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, found patients prescribed amoxycillin did not recover more quickly or have significantly fewer symptoms than those patients who received no medication.
"Using amoxycillin to treat respiratory infections in patients not suspected of having pneumonia is not likely to help and could be harmful," said Professor Paul Little, from the University of Southampton in the UK, who led the research.
He added that overuse of antibiotics could lead to side effects such as diarrhoea, rashes and vomiting, in addition to the development of resistance.
Dr Trent Yarwood, infectious diseases physician at Queensland Health said the study showed that unless a patient had pneumonia, the risk of side effects outweighed the small benefit of treatment with the antibiotic.
However, Dr Michael Tam, who is a GP and lecturer in primary care at the University of New South Wales, said the study did not mean that antibiotics should never be used.
"For the most part, these findings confirm what we think to be best practice for lower respiratory tract infections that are not suspected to be pneumonia," Dr Tam said.
"For instance, the Australia based "eTG Complete" guidelines already recommend against the use of antibiotics for acute bronchitis."
Dr Tam said that, as always, an individual seeking care should have a discussion with their GP on what would be the most appropriate treatment for them, at the time, in their specific situation.
"Our results show that most people get better on their own," Professor Little said.
"But, given that a small number of patients will benefit from antibiotics, the challenge remains to identify these individuals."
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