The antibiotic treatment for complicated abdominal infections can be cut by half, yet remain effective and prevent development of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, says a new study.
The researchers looked at the treatment of infections after the source of the infection was addressed, such as the removal of an inflamed appendix. Administering antibiotics for only four days was as effective as treatments spanning eight days.
"There hasn't been a lot of guidance on how long to treat intra-abdominal infections with antibiotics once you've gotten control over the source of infection," said Christopher Guidry from University of Virginia School of Medicine, department of surgery. "In the large scale, antibiotics have some downsides. The increasing prevalence of antibiotic resistance is a problem, so anything, we can do to minimize exposure is important," Guidry said.
Doctors traditionally have given antibiotics until all symptoms disappear, typically a week or two. The trial looked at 517 patients in the U.S. and Canada who were suffering from an abdominal infection and agreed to participate.
After their source infections were addressed, half were given antibiotics until their symptoms had been gone for two days, while the other half were given antibiotics for only four days.
"It's important for physicians to realize the most important aspect of the management of these patients is controlling the source of infection," said Robert Sawyer, from departments of surgery and anesthesiology, University of Virginia.
"It suggests that, in many cases, abdominal infections can be controlled much more quickly than expected. The STOP-IT trial essentially cut in half the length of antibiotic treatment, meaning fewer side effects for patients and dramatically lower costs," Dunsmore added.
The results were detailed out online in New England Journal of Medicine.