Prescription for nothing? 7 in 10 doctors give patients unnecessary antibiotics for asymptomatic infections


Antibiotics can be dangerous to the gut and increase the risk of creating antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains. Despite the danger to “good” bacteria in the body, a new study finds about 70 percent of primary care physicians still believe in prescribing antibiotics for asymptomatic infections.

Since the early 2000s, the attitude towards antibiotics has shifted. Multiple medical organizations advise against prescribing antibiotics for people who test positive for a urinary tract infection (UTI) but show no symptoms such as burning or frequent urination. Medical guidance states antibiotics are not useful for asymptomatic infections and could cause more harm than good.

These side-effects include diarrhea, vomiting, rashes, and yeast infections. In rare cases, antibiotic-resistant strains such as C. difficile have an opportunity to expand in the colon and may cause death. Other cases involve bacterial infections that are deadly or hard to treat.

“Our study suggests that primary care clinicians do not follow widely accepted recommendations against prescribing antibiotics for asymptomatic bacteriuria,” says Jonathan Baghdadi, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology & Public Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and lead author of the study, in a university release. “Some primary care clinicians may be unaware of these recommendations, but a culture of inappropriate prescribing is also likely a contributing factor.”


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