You know the drill: “Take all medication as directed until gone”. It can be hard for us to stick to that once you get to feeling better.
The 1940s were the dawn of antibiotic use. After penicillin was discovered, many more antibiotics came down the pipeline. Doctors focused on how to use the drugs effectively, treating patients until they get better… and then a little longer to be safe. Cutting back on tuberculosis treatment was dangerous and the infection returned. They believed that stopping antibiotics too quickly after healing might increase resistance.
Decades later, experts are warning that continuing treatment after the infection is gone may increase antibiotic resistance. Taking more drugs than are needed allows the bacteria in the body more chance to develop a resistance to the drugs in the future.
A physician at Brown University is challenging the long-standing belief, and other researchers now share his skepticism. The question of if this advice is still appropriate will be brought up at the World Health Organization meeting next month, stating how the recommendation is not backed by science.
The more bacteria are exposed to drugs, the more tricks they acquire to survive. More resistance to multiple antibiotics will lead to more incurable infections. Treatment guidelines are different for each infection, as are the treatment responses from person to person. Studies have found many infections can be cured faster than originally thought.
Some people decide to stop taking antibiotics when they feel better, but this is not safe in instances of tuberculosis or bone infections. Shortening the course of antibiotic treatment for certain diagnoses is not recommended and could be dangerous. The CDC urges people not to skip doses or stop taking drugs unless your health professional instructs you to do so.
Branswell, Helen. “Why your doctor’s advice to take all your antibiotics may be wrong.” Health. STAT, 9 Feb 2017. Web. 12 Feb 2017.