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New study tackles over-prescribing antibiotics in children

A recent study was conducted following mounting concern over antibiotic overloading in children. The study explores different interventions concerning inappropriate antibiotic prescribing for non-severe acute infections

Antibiotic overload for children rife in Australia

Already, over-prescription of antibiotics in children is a global issue, and the risks of possible long-term side-effects and speeding up antibiotic resistance in the community have been described by the World Health Organisation as a “global health emergency”.

In Australia, babies are prescribed antibiotics at some of the highest rates in the world, with data from the Barwon Infant Study, a collaborative birth cohort study between Deakin University, Barwon Health and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI), showing Australia’s antibiotic prescription rate for babies under 12 months old is almost 150 per cent higher than the UK, and almost 500 per cent higher than Switzerland.

Fifty per cent of babies in the study had at least one antibiotic prescription in their first twelve months, while one in eight received three or more antibiotic prescriptions, the study revealed.

Tackling the issue with a fresh solution

A new report released by the British Journal of General Practice has now explored various different interventions that may reduce inappropriate antibiotic prescribing for non-severe acute infections.

The study examined 2227 non-severe acute infections in children registered by 131 family practitioners, which were allocated to one of four intervention groups:

(1) point-of-care C-reactive protein test

(2) brief intervention to elicit parental concern combined with safety net advice

(3) combination of the above; or

(4) usual care

The study found that comparison with usual care, a point-of-care C-reactive protein test did not influence antibiotic prescribing. A brief intervention to elicit parental concern combined with safety net advice increased antibiotic prescribing. But in combination with a point-of-care C-reactive protein test, this increase disappeared.

Meanwhile it also found systematic point-of-care C-reactive protein testing without guidance is not an effective strategy to reduce antibiotic prescribing for non-severe acute infections in children in primary care. Eliciting parental concern and providing a safety net without POC CRP testing conversely increased antibiotic prescribing.

Moving forward, the report suggested a more patient-centric approach, calling on practitioners to have more training in handling parental concern without inappropriately prescribing antibiotics.

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