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Antibiotics not best for ear infections - journal

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From: C-reuters@clari.net (Reuters)
Subject: Antibiotics not best for ear infections - journal
Organization: Copyright 1997 by Reuters
Date: Fri, 11 Jul 1997 8:21:05 PDT
LONDON (Reuter) - Antibiotics are not the best treatment for middle ear infections and doctors should stop routinely prescribing drugs for them, international experts said Friday.

Although middle ear infections can be distressing -- with a crying, inconsolable child clearly in pain -- antibiotics may only do harm, they said.

Larry Culpepper of Boston University and a team of other doctors from the Netherlands, Britain and the United States said needlessly dosing children with drugs had helped antibiotic-resistant organisms to evolve.

They examined studies on treating middle ear infections and concluded that the antibiotics were a waste of time for most children.

``Placebo studies indicate that more than 80 percent of children with acute otitis media (middle ear infection) recover without antimicrobials,'' they wrote in a paper for the British Medical Journal.

``Existing research offers no compelling evidence that children with acute otitis media routinely given antimicrobials have a shorter durations of symptoms, fewer recurrences, or better long-term outcomes than those who do not receive them.''

In fact, giving the drugs could be harmful, they said.

``Antimicrobial use in children with otitis media results in the emergence of resistant organisms in those children and in the community,'' they wrote.

Tests showed children routinely given drugs such as ampicillin tested positive for strains of influenza- and pneumonia-causing microbes resistant to drug therapy.

Despite this, ear infections were the most common reason antibiotics were prescribed to outpatients, and 97 percent of children with ear infections in Britain were prescribed drugs.

Researchers said a better approach would be prevention. Tobacco smoke is a known aggravator of ear infections, and babies who are breast-fed are less prone to them.

Encouraging hand-washing in day-care centres and elsewhere would also help prevent the spread of bugs that cause the infections, they added.

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