Instant testing for bacterial infections could cut down on the number of unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions, a review published Nov. 6 by The Cochran Library showed.
Researchers analyzed results of six random trials involving the C-reactive protein test, an on-the-spot test kit that serves as a guide for general practitioners when deciding whether to prescribe antibiotics. Data was available from 3,284 predominantly adult patients, according to the study, with 631 out of 1,685 people who took the test being prescribed antibiotics. Of 1,599 patients who didnt take the test, 785 were prescribed antibiotics. As a result, antibiotic use was 22% lower among patients who took the test, researchers found.
Many patients with acute respiratory infections are suffering from viruses such as the common cold. Still, physicians sometimes prescribe antibiotics because they have no way of knowing if the infection is bacterial or viral, researchers said. This can lead to unnecessary use of antibiotics, which could allow bacteria opportunities to develop resistance to the drugs, rendering common antibiotics unable to fight major bacterial infections.
These results suggest that antibiotic use in patients with acute respiratory infections could be reduced by carrying out biomarker tests in addition to routine examinations, lead researcher Rune Aabenhus, MD, of the Department of Public Health at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark said in the review. Going forward, it would be useful to see more evidence on the size of the reduction and cost-savings, as well as how these tests compare to other antibiotic-saving approaches.
Although the test is considered safe, one of the six trials showed there were a small number of cases in which patients who took the test were more likely to be admitted to the hospital at a later date, the review said. Aabenhus said that particular data, while possible a chance finding, could serve as a reminder to physicians to be careful when using the tests.
Administering the test takes about three minutes and requires pricking the patients finger to collect a single drop of blood. The C-reactive protein acts as a biomarker of inflammation, with low levels possibly effectively ruling out serious bacterial infection, according to the review.
For more information, visit http://www.cochrane.org/news/news-events/current-news/antibiotics-spot-tests-reduce-unnecessary-prescriptions.