By Lilian Anekwe
A simple blood test could help GPs decide which patients with acute respiratory tract infection will benefit from antibiotics.
German researchers found testing for a diagnostic marker called procalcitonin reduced prescription by more than 40%.
The randomised controlled trial of 550 patients compared those who were given antibiotics if they had a blood procalcitonin level above 0.25ng/ml with controls.
Some 84 patients in the procalcitonin group were initially given antibiotics and 89 in the control group. But after the blood test 59 patients received antibiotics and 101 in the control group, a reduction of 41.6%.
Patients in both groups experienced similar symptom duration – 9.04 days in the procalcitonin-tested group compared with 9.00 in controls.
Study leader Professor Tobias Welte, head of respiratory medicine at the Hannover Medical School, said: ‘There is huge potential for further reduction of antibiotic treatment.’
European Respiratory Journal 2010, online 25 February
A blood test can cut antibiotic prescription for RTIs by 40%