Antibiotics Reduce Pneumonia Risk After Chest Infection

No reason for routine use in common respiratory tract infections

FRIDAY, Oct. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Although there is no justification for using antibiotics to prevent serious complications as a result of upper respiratory tract infections, they are useful in protecting against pneumonia in elderly patients with chest infection, according to a report published online Oct. 18 in BMJ.

Irene Petersen, of University College London in the United Kingdom, and colleagues analyzed data on 3.36 million cases of respiratory tract infection from the U.K.'s general practice research database. They looked at the risk of a number of serious complications, such as pneumonia after upper respiratory tract infection, quinsy after sore throat and mastoiditis after otitis media.

To prevent one complication it was necessary to treat over 4,000 patients with antibiotics. However, among elderly patients with chest infection, treating 39 patients prevented one case of pneumonia, and among younger age groups the number needed to treat ranged from 96 to 119 people.

"For chest infection, research should focus on developing clinical algorithms and diagnostic technology that can be easily applied in primary care to enable confident distinction between acute bronchitis and early pneumonia and to identify those who are most likely to develop pneumonia," the authors conclude.

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