A new study into the efficacy of antibiotics in treating persistent coughs concludes they provide little benefit, while prescribing antibiotics can have a deleterious effect on health.
The study, based on just over 2,000 patients, was led by Professor Paul Little from the University of Southampton. Previous research had produced inconclusive results on the effects of antibiotics on persistent mild coughs. The new study proves more conclusive.
The BBC reported Prof. Little said: "Using the antibiotic amoxicillin to treat respiratory infections in patients not suspected of having pneumonia is not likely to help and could be harmful.
Overuse of antibiotics, dominated by primary care prescribing, particularly when they are ineffective, can lead to the development of resistance and have side effects like diarrhoea, rash and vomiting.
Our results show that people get better on their own. But given that a small number of patients will benefit from antibiotics the challenge remains to identify these individuals."
The study, published in the Lancet, concludes: "When pneumonia is not suspected clinically, amoxicillin provides little benefit for acute lower-respiratory-tract infection in primary care both overall and in patients aged 60 years or more, and causes slight harms."
The National Health Service is seeking to raise antibiotic awareness. It warns that the unnecessary prescribing of antibiotics is increasing the number of infections with antibiotic resistant bacteria.