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BBC R4 Inside health talks to nurse Liz about antibiotic resistance research

13 March 2017

Research by NIHR CLAHRC Wessex into antibiotic resistance is to feature on Radio 4.

Dr Mark Porter presents Inside Health on Radio 4 every Tuesday evening at 9pm, the programme is then repeated on Wednesday afternoon at 3pm.

The bacteria that cause things like coughs and colds, as well as other nasty illnesses, are becoming ever more resistant to antibiotics. Bacteria are very good at adapting, and because we keep using the same antibiotics, they are finding ways to overcome them.

The World Health Organisation fears that if things continue the way they are we could run out of effective antibiotics by 2050. That would men in a generations' time minor illnesses could be much more serious, and even worse fatal to vulnerable people. In addition antibiotics used to protect people after surgery, chemotherapy or childbirth could be useless.

The last new antibiotics discovered were some 20 or more years ago, and it could take a long time before any new ones come along.

One way to prolong the use of the antibiotics we have is to reduce how much we use them. Sometimes antibiotics are prescribed because it's unclear if a chest infection or illness is caused by a virus or bacteria, so just in case they're given to a patient.

Liz Cross is a nurse working across GP practices in Hertfordshire and has been taking part in our research project which aims to reduce the unnecessary prescribing of antibiotics for people with chest infections.

The research is the idea  Professor Michael Moore, a GP himself. He has been conducting research to trial something called C-Reactive Protein (CRP) testing in doctors surgeries. It works by taking a small pin prick of blood from the patient and analysing it in around 2 minutes.

The test then gives the doctor (GP) or nurse a better indication of whether antibiotics will clear up the chest infection.

Liz heard about this research and decided to trial it in 5 surgeries in her area. So far the initial results are encouraging. in surgeries using CRP tests on 9% of people with a chest infection were given antibiotics, compared to 60% where there wasn't the test available. In addition only 17% of patients in the surgeries with the test came back for another appointment, compared to over half in surgeries without the test (so called re-attendance).

"I can test people who come in with a chest infection to see if antibiotics would work. They only work against a bacterial infection.

"During the winter months I must see patients with a chest infection every 15 minutes during my working day, and nearly each time I have to explain how antibiotics work or don’t work in their case. I felt there had to be something better and that’s when I spotted the CRP test research.

If patients could see the test and we could talk about antibiotics then I felt certain I could reduce the number of times they were prescribed – just in case."

Liz said she is very excited and nervous about appearing on the programme, but it's a great chance to explain the issue.

Meanwhile the research project has expanded to other parts of Hertfordshire and the midlands, with further surgeries trialing the tests in the Wessex region.


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