Antibiotics – when is enough enough?

From ABC Health and Wellbeing, 17 March 2015:

How many times have you been told that if you’re prescribed antibiotics, you must always finish the full course, even if you’re feeling better?

The popular notion has always been that if you don’t complete the full course, you’re encouraging the development of antibiotic resistance.

But in recent years, this approach to antibiotic use has changed, and now the view is that we only need take antibiotics for the shortest possible duration needed to get bacterial infection under control, and not a tablet longer.

However there are some important exceptions and experts like Dr Andrew Boyden, from NPS MedicineWise stress you should not stop antibiotics early without talking to your doctor first.

Challenging assumptions

Antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest medical challenges facing us, as it threatens to make our arsenal of antibacterial weapons ineffective against even the most common bacterial nasties. The medical community is therefore re-examining and challenging many long-held assumptions about how to prescribe and take antibiotcs.

“We really want to be short, sharp and directed with antibiotic treatment, wherever possible,” says Dr John Ferguson, infectious diseases physician and microbiologist with Hunter New England Health.

“There’s evidence showing that very short durations of antibiotic treatment are effective in a variety of conditions including urinary tract infections and pneumonia,” says Ferguson.

“For example, with pneumonia, there’s a vast amount of paediatric and adult data showing that three days is enough – if you’ve improved by the three-day point, that’s enough.”

This turn-around has come about because we now understand a lot more about how we should be using antibiotics, not only to treat infections but also to reduce the risk of resistance developing. Read more

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