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Antibiotic course saves ICU lives


There have been calls to change the antibiotic policy in intensive care units (ICUs) after a study showed patients have a better chance of survival if they receive the medicines as a preventive treatment.

Dutch researchers looked at 6,000 patients admitted to intensive care units at 13 hospitals in the Netherlands. Some solely received oral antibiotics in the form of a paste, while others were given a triple course consisting of a delivery tube into the stomach, an intravenous drip and the paste.

A third group was subject to standard intensive care unit (ICU) procedure with no preventative course of antibiotics.

The group that received the triple dose had 3.5% less deaths than those who received no additional treatment. Deaths among patients who only received the oral paste were reduced by 2.9%, research published in the New England Journal of Medicine found.

Study leader Dr Anne Marie de Smet, from the University Medical Centre Utrecht, said: “I believe we should revise the antibiotic policy for the ICU.

“We have seen that using antibiotics clearly results in a reduction in the number of deaths, and ICUs should make use of this knowledge.”

Contrary to recent concerns about the over use of antibiotics leading to the development of hospital superbugs, the study found no evidence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria developing in the patients.

Copyright Press Association 2009

New England Journal of Medicine

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