Preventive antibiotic use reduces hospital deaths

January 1st, 2009 - 11:27 am ICT by IANS  

London, Jan 1 (IANS) Administering antibiotics to intensive care unit (ICU) patients as a preventive measure reduces chances of death, according to a new study. The study involved nearly 6,000 Dutch patients in 13 hospitals. Researchers compared the effect of two kinds of antibiotic treatments with the standard ICU care.

They divided into three groups nearly 6,000 patients hospitalised in ICUs between 2004 and 2006. The patients in question were expected to be on a ventilator for at least two days and/or to be admitted to the ICU for at least three days.

One of the groups received an oral antibiotic paste four times a day. The second group, in addition to being given the oral paste four times daily, received antibiotics through a gastric tube in the intestinal tract and by intravenous drip.

The third group was the control group and received the standard ICU care. After four weeks, fewer people had died in the groups that received antibiotics than in the control group.

Preventive use of antibiotics reduced the number of deaths by 3.5 percent (oral antibiotic paste, and antibiotics in the intestinal tract and by intravenous drip) and 2.9 percent (oral antibiotic paste).

The difference between the two groups treated with antibiotics was not significant. The number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria did not increase in these patients. Although the patients in the control group were in general slightly less sick, the statistical data were adjusted to reflect this.

The findings have settled a long-running debate on whether the advantages of using antibiotics as a preventive measure offset the drawback of the possibility of developing antibiotic resistance.

For Anne Marie de Smet, anesthesiologist-intensivist at University Medical Centre (UMC) Utrecht and the study’s co-author, the conclusion is clear, said a UMC release.

In the Netherlands, every year more than 18,000 patients are admitted to the ICUs for more than three days. “I believe we should revise the antibiotic policy for the ICU,” said De Smet.

These findings were published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

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