London: Antibiotics are ineffective in treating patients with persistent coughs caused by mild chest infections, researchers say.
The new study found that the severity and duration of symptoms in patients treated with antibiotics were no different to those given a placebo.
But experts caution that if pneumonia is suspected, antibiotics should still be used due to the disease’s severity.
“Using the antibiotic amoxicillin to treat respiratory infections in patients not suspected of having pneumonia is not likely to help and could be harmful,” the BBC quoted Paul Little, lead researcher from the University of Southampton, as saying.
“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,” Little said.
In the study, the researchers randomly divided patients into two groups - one received the antibiotic and the other was given a placebo, an inert treatment in the form of a sugar pill, three times a day for seven days.
The study found little difference in the severity and duration of symptoms reported between groups. This was also true for older patients - those aged 60 years or over - who made up nearly a third of the study.
And those taking antibiotics were reported to have more side effects including nausea, rash and diarrhoea than those given the placebo.
The study has been published in the Lancet journal.