Large-scale study to tackle antibiotic resistance

29 June 2017

Credit: Shutterstock
Credit: Shutterstock

A world-first £1.5million study to involve over 2,700 participants as it aims to tackle one of the biggest public health threats we face: antibiotic resistance.

Thousands of doses of potent broad-spectrum antibiotics are used daily in the NHS when patients are suspected of having sepsis.

This very serious condition causes at least 44,000 deaths a year in the UK and more than a quarter of cases that are diagnosed prove fatal. It occurs when the body’s response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs, leading to shock and multiple organ failure.

Moreover, its symptoms can be similar to those of a simple viral infection, meaning it is not easy to diagnose, as no recognised test applies as yet.

At present whenever sepsis is suspected, patients are quickly treated with potent antibiotics, normally for at least 7 to 10 days. The growing problem of resistance to commonly prescribed antibiotics is a key issue worldwide, however, with experts fearing some previously-manageable infections will become untreatable with antibiotics.

That is why the NHS is striving to safely reduce their use where possible. Now experts from the University of Warwick’s Warwick Medical School and Salford, Manchester are leading researchers in a world-leading £1.5million programme. Funded by the National Institute for Health Research, it will determine whether one of two different tests will allow a safe reduction in the time patients in hospital with suspected sepsis are kept on antibiotics.

Leading researcher Professor Paul Dark said: “In 2015 the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended there should be further research on tests for guiding decisions to stop antibiotic treatment in patients with sepsis.

“Ultimately, we want to be able to use antibiotics more effectively, making sure we have the safest possible care for patients. We are using a precision medicine approach by monitoring markers in the blood for each individual every day to guide when to stop their antibiotics.”

After a pilot phase, the study will recruit more than 2,700 patients at 30 NHS hospitals across the UK. They will be assigned to one of three arms of the trial, with one group continuing to receive standard care, one group having C-reactive protein monitored each day and the final group having procalcitonin checked daily. The researchers will compare how long patients remain on antibiotics and the size of the dose as well as survival rates and how long it takes for them to be well enough to be discharged from hospital.

Research led by Professor Paul Dark, Consultant in Critical Care Medicine at Salford Royal; research in collaboration with the University of Warwick’s Warwick Medical School and Salford, Manchester.


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