New tests to rapidly detect the flu are allowing doctors to cut down on the number of hospital patients who receive antibiotics, helping soften the rapidly worsening threat of antibiotic resistance, according to a study to appear in the Feb. 26 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. The study was posted online by the journal Jan. 22 because of the importance of the findings to public health.
The research was done by infection control experts at Rochester General Hospital in Rochester, N.Y., who are on the faculty at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
"I was pleasantly surprised by the results," said Ann Falsey, M.D., who led the study. "Rapid testing does give physicians evidence to discontinue antibiotics, and some physicians are responding to the evidence.
Falsey's team analyzed the records of 166 patients who definitely had the flu when hospitalized. Eighty-six of the patients tested positive with the rapid test, which gives an answer within minutes, while the 80 others either did not have the rapid test done, or they tested negative at the time but were later found to have the flu. The team checked the subsequent treatment to see if there was a difference in the use of antibiotics, which aren't effective or useful against viruses like the flu.
They found that 86 percent of the patients whose flu was confirmed early on were treated with antibiotics, compared to 99 percent of the patients whose flu wasn't identified immediately. It's not a huge difference in numbers, but the study showed that the difference is significant, demonstrating that the rapid test does reduce the use of antibiotics in the hospital.
"At least some proportion of doctors is willing to stop antibiotics when patients have a documented viral infection," said Falsey. "This is certainly encouraging, but there is a lot more work to do."
The issue is important, says Falsey, because the over-use of antibiotics makes patien
Contact: Tom Rickey
University of Rochester Medical Center