Antibiotics found to fail in quarter of pneumonia patients

pharmafile | May 24, 2017 | News story | Research and Development Antibiotics, antibiotic resistance, pneumonia 

A new study that emerged from the 2017 American Thoracic Society International Conference revealed that 22.1% of patients who were treated for pneumonia required further treatment after receiving antibiotics. The inefficacy of standard treatment points towards the worrying growing trend of antibiotic resistance, which only increases when multiple courses of antibiotics are required.

The study involved 251,947 patients who were treated for ‘community-acquire pneumonia’, which means that the infectious disease was caught by the patient in their everyday lives. Of these patients, almost a quarter were found to require further antibiotic therapy, either by a repeated dose or with a stronger antibiotic, were subsequently hospitalisation or needed emergency room evaluation.

“Pneumonia is the leading cause of death from infectious disease in the United States, so it is concerning that we found nearly one in four patients with community-acquired pneumonia required additional antibiotic therapy, subsequent hospitalisation or emergency room evaluation,” said lead author James A. McKinnell and infectious disease specialist. “The additional antibiotic therapy noted in the study increases the risk of antibiotic resistance and complications like C. difficile (“C diff”) infection, which is difficult to treat and may be life-threatening, especially for older adults.”

Beyond the worrying statistics, the researchers were able to identify trends to point towards why particular patients were not responding to initial treatment. The study found that patients over the age of 65 were twice as likely to need to be hospitalised as a result of pneumonia, compared to younger patients.

The study also noted that some doctors were not following guidelines that suggest those with chronic conditions need to be given a stronger dose of antibiotics, or combination therapy, to fully rid patients of the illness.

The research points towards the potential need for stricter guidelines on how antibiotics are prescribed by doctors; more worryingly, it displays a trend where one of the most common infectious diseases in the UK and the US is becoming increasingly difficult to treat.

It stands as a further call to arms to researchers to develop new techniques to combat antibiotic resistance. For example, new research emerging out of Israel has found that it is possible to use metals and organic acids as a natural antibiotic in agriculture – one of the main drivers of antibiotic resistance. The research used low concentrations of silver, copper and zinc alongside food acid, commonly used in food preservatives, and found that this combination was able to eradicate pathogens such as cholera and salmonella.

Such innovations will be necessary to reduce antibiotic use to preserve the effective treatments that currently exist – with the challenge of producing new antibiotics outweighing the speed with which antibiotics are becoming ineffective.

Ben Hargreaves

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