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Taking More Antibiotics May Up Odds for Hospitalization

HealthDay News
by -- Robert Preidt
Updated: Mar 5th 2020

new article illustration

THURSDAY, March 5, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- If your doctors keep giving you prescriptions for antibiotics, you might be at increased risk of hospitalization for a serious infection, a new report suggests.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from 2 million patients in England and Wales. These patients had received prescriptions for antibiotics between 2000 and 2016 to treat common infections such as upper respiratory tract, urinary tract, ear and chest infections.

Those who had nine or more antibiotic prescriptions for common infections in the previous three years were more than twice as likely to be hospitalized with another infection within three or more months, the findings showed.

The risk was 1.77 times higher among those who had five to eight prescriptions, 1.33 times higher among those who had three to four prescriptions and 1.23 times higher among those who had two prescriptions, the University of Manchester researchers found.

Doctors may "prescribe numerous courses of antibiotics over several years, which according to our study increases the risk of a more serious infection. That in turn, we show, is linked to hospital admissions," study author Tjeerd van Staa said in a university news release.

"We don't know why this is, but overuse of antibiotics might kill the good bacteria in the gut (microbiota) and make us more susceptible to infections, for example," he said.

It's clear doctors lack the tools to prescribe antibiotics effectively for common infections, especially when patients already have previously used antibiotics, van Staa said.

"Prescribing antibiotics for a common infection -- even though it's not certain whether it's viral, where antibiotics are not indicated, or bacterial, where they are -- might be easier when there is little time," he suggested.

Also, in large practices, doctors may be less likely to know their patients and less tuned in to their history and circumstances to make informed decisions, van Staa said.

The study doesn't show a direct cause-and-effect relationship between prescription practices and hospitalizations. And more research is needed to understand the association, the researchers noted.

The study was published online March 2 in the journal BMC Medicine.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on antibiotics.