Simple antibiotics keep most super bugs at bay


Sydney : Hospitals should avoid prescribing expensive broad-spectrum antibiotics for pneumonia to avoid developing drug-resistant super bugs, says a new study.

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The study by Melbourne University researcher and Austin Health Infectious Diseases consultant Patrick Charles showed that only five percent of indoor patients of community-acquired pneumonia had infections caused by organisms that could not be successfully treated with penicillin.

“In the US, Canada and some parts of Europe, they are seeing some serious complications which appear to be related to the overuse of some classes of broad-spectrum antibiotics that are frequently used there to treat respiratory infections,” said Charles.

In the world’s largest study of its kind, Charles surveyed almost 900 people admitted to six hospitals over 28 months between 2004 and 2006.

His research analysed samples of blood, urine, sputum and viral swabs of the nose and throat taken from 885 patients at the Austin, Alfred, Monash and West Gippsland hospitals in Victoria, the Royal Perth Hospital and Princess Alexandra Hospital, Brisbane.

Charles found that most cases of pneumonia were caused by easy to treat bacteria such as the pneumococcus or mycoplasma, or by respiratory viruses that do not require antibiotic therapy.

Only five percent of cases were caused by organisms that would require more expensive and broad-spectrum antibiotics, and these cases were nearly all in patients who’d had frequent hospital admissions or were residents of nursing homes.

Charles said the trend towards broad-spectrum antibiotics was being driven by lab-based studies of resistance rates in bacteria sent to the labs, rather than clinical studies of patients with pneumonia.