Researchers Say Antibiotics Ineffective Against Sinus Infections

by on December 26th, 2010
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Despite the fact that antibiotics are the number one treatment prescribed by physicians, at least according to Reuters, for sinus infections, there is no evidence that they actually do anything to help. This bit of news comes courtesy of a group of researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine who have conducted an in-depth investigation into the therapeutic benefits of antibiotics in treating sinus infections. Their results are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

CNN reports that as many as one out of every five antibiotic prescriptions filled in the United States, are for sinus infections, a statistic that will likely be in jeopardy once doctors become convinced that offering them to patients will offer no better results than simple sugar pills.

To reach this conclusion, the team of researchers enlisted 166 adults who were currently experiencing a sinus infection. The group was subdivided into two groups, one got antibiotics, the other a placebo. Patients were then monitored at three, seven, ten and twenty eight days to see how they were faring. The researchers write that they found no discernible differences between the people in either group regarding pain levels, or severity of the infection. Both groups also took roughly the same amount of time to recover.

Jay F. Piccirillo, MD, one of the researchers summed up the group’s findings by telling CNN that “Patients don’t get better faster or have fewer symptoms when they get antibiotics,” a sobering assessment if ever there was one. Reuters says that this is likely because fewer than two percent of sinus infections are bacterial, which leaves the cause for the rest attributable to one of the many kinds of virus that can cause sinus problems. And as most people are aware, modern medicine is powerless when it comes to killing them.

The research team points out that their study highlights one of the major problems with our medical system, and that is, doctors simply don’t have adequate tools to properly diagnose the actual cause of any particular sinus infection and prescribe antibiotics because their patients are in obvious distress and want their doctor to give them something. The problem with such an approach, however, is that the over prescription of antibiotics are leading to strains of bacteria that are resistant.

The researchers suggest doctors switch from tying to cure patients of their sinus infections, to prescribing medications that are known to help with symptoms, such as pain relievers and decongestants.

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