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NHS Direct cuts calls to GPs

GPs are treating cases of difficult asthma ‘inappropriately aggressively' because they are not considering lung infection as a possible cause, a study concludes.

Researchers estimated as many as 40 per cent of patients referred with difficult asthma or chronic cough actually had persistent endobronchial infection.

Their study, presented at last week's European Respiratory Society conference in Copenhagen, reviewed 81 patients with PEI and found most had been referred from primary care, 47 per cent for persistent cough and 45 per cent for difficult asthma.

Wheeze was present in 48 per cent of cases and persistent cough – usually wet cough – in 95 per cent. After two courses of antibiotics 51 per cent were symptom free.

Study researcher Dr Mark Everard, consultant paediatrician at Sheffield Children's Hospital, said: ‘It's very easy if you're not looking for it to assume it is asthma. Instance [of PEI] is low but morbidity is high.'

Dr Everard stressed GPs should remain cautious over antibiotic use. But he said: ‘If a child has persistent wet cough for more than a month give them antibiotics and an assessment at the end of it.'

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