Health Watch -- Unnecessary Antibiotics?

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Antibiotics may not be necessary for some infections.

There's been a lot of concern recently about drug-resistant bacteria. But now researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas have found that antibiotics may not be necessary for healing common skin infections in children - even when the infections are caused by drug-resistant bacteria.

The researchers observed the progress of children who were treated for common skin boils. These infections occur when bacteria get into the skin or soft tissue from a scratch or prick. Doctors found that if they drained the abscess, the infection cleared up whether or not the child was given effective antibiotics.

In the study, doctors treated children with these skin infections by draining and cleaning the boils. Children were then given standard antibiotics. When these antibiotics appeared not to work because of resistant bacteria strains, some of the children were given a different drug known to work on the resistant bacteria. But on follow-up visits, doctors didn't notice a difference in fever, wound tenderness or other factors between the children given new antibiotics and children still taking the ineffective antibiotics.

Dr.  Michael C. Lee, a UT Southwestern pediatrician who led this study, says this study helps doctors know better what to do about increasingly common infections in children. Doctors note that even if antibiotics may not be required, these infections still require medical treatment.

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March 2004

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