Topical (local) antibiotics for respiratory infections with sore throat: An antibiotic stewardship perspective.

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, 2019, 44, (6), pp. 829-837
Issue Date:
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WHAT IS KNOWN AND OBJECTIVE:The overuse and misuse of antibiotics, especially for viral, and self-limiting, respiratory tract infections such as sore throat, increases the risk of the development and spread of antimicrobial resistance within communities. Up to 80% of sore throat cases have a viral aetiology, and even when the infection is bacterial, most cases resolve without antibiotics. However, antibiotics are still frequently and often inappropriately prescribed for the treatment of sore throat. Furthermore, topical (local) antibiotics for treatment of sore throat are widely available over the counter. The objective of this systematic review was to establish the evidence for the benefits, risk of harm and antimicrobial resistance associated with topical (local) antibiotics used for patients with sore throat. METHODS:Eligible studies included those in patients with sore throat of any aetiology receiving the topical (local) antibiotics tyrothricin, bacitracin, gramicidin or neomycin where the antibiotic was topically/locally applied via the nasal cavity or throat. Nasal applications were included as these are occasionally used to treat upper respiratory tract infections that may involve sore throat. There was no restriction or requirement regarding comparator. The outcomes of interest included efficacy, safety, and in vitro culture and antimicrobial resistance data. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION:This systematic review found sparse and mainly poor-quality evidence relating to the use of topical (local) antibiotics for sore throat, and it was not possible to establish the benefits, risk of harm or impact of use on antimicrobial resistance. WHAT IS NEW AND CONCLUSIONS:Further research is necessary to ascertain the risks and benefits of topical (local) antibiotics, their contribution to antimicrobial resistance and the risk of harm. We do, however, question whether it is appropriate and rational to use topical (local) antibiotics for the treatment of sore throat caused by respiratory tract infections in the absence of robust evidence.
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