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What are the consequences of stopping antibiotic treatment early?
Surely most people have heard that antibiotic treatment should definitely be carried out until the end. However, researchers have now found that stopping the medication prematurely when the patient is sure to feel better is obviously more sensible.
In their investigation, the scientists at Brighton and Sussex medical school found that antibiotic treatments can be stopped prematurely if the patient gets better. So far, the idea was that antibiotic treatment must be continued until the end of the prescription period, also to avoid the development of resistant pathogens. The doctors published their contrary results in the British Medical Journal.
Does taking antibiotics too short cause the bacteria to mutate?
So far, the rule when taking antibiotics was that treatment is only complete when all the prescribed tablets have been taken. Doctors advised against stopping the drug prematurely, even if people already felt better. The previous thesis assumed that taking too little antibiotics causes the bacteria to mutate, making them resistant to the drug, the doctors explain.
Taking antibiotics for too long increases the resistance of the bacteria
The experts say that the premature termination of antibiotic treatment promotes antibiotic resistance is not supported by scientific evidence. However, taking antibiotics for too long can increase the risk of antibiotic resistance, explains author Professor Martin Llewelyn.
In some diseases, taking antibiotics too short can promote resistance
There are actually some diseases where the bacteria can become resistant if the medication is not taken long enough. The most obvious example of this is tuberculosis, the experts explain. Most of the diseases, however, are triggered by bacteria that are on human skin. These bacteria, such as E coli or Staphylococcus aureus, do not normally cause harm, but people can get them if the bacteria enter the bloodstream or the intestine. The longer such bacteria are exposed to antibiotics, the more likely that resistance will develop, the researchers say.
Antibiotic treatments vary from patient to patient
There is too little research on the ideal length of antibiotic treatment, the experts explain. Such a treatment varies from person to person and is also dependent on the use of antibiotics in the past, the doctors say.
Evidence of a long duration of therapy is very weak
It is possible in hospitals to determine when antibiotic treatment can be stopped. If repeated tests in hospitals are not possible, patients may be advised to stop treatment when they feel better, the study authors explain. The current study supports the idea that antibiotics should be used more sparingly in the future. The researchers expressly point out that the scientific arguments for the sense of a long therapy duration are weak at best. However, shortening the duration of treatment could clearly make antibiotic resistance less likely, the scientists explain.
Critic: Improving symptoms does not guarantee eradication of the infection
However, some critics are concerned. The recommended length of antibiotic treatment is not accidental. Many medical professionals see a risk if patients are advised to stop treatment as soon as they are better. Because the improvement in symptoms does not necessarily mean that the infection has been completely eliminated. (as)