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Topical Antibiotics Unsafe Method to Prevent Pneumonia in ICU Patients

First Posted: Oct 13, 2014 04:27 AM EDT

A team of researchers has found that the use of topical antibiotics during clinical trials to prevent pneumonia in patients in the intensive care unit does not offer any significant benefit.

Topical antibiotics are medicines that are applied to the skin to kill and curb the spread of bacteria. They help lower the risk of infection that is caused by bacteria. Pneumonia is commonly acquired by patients kept in ICU. This condition represents a major concern for physicians due to the high mortality and morbidity rate. It is due to this, pneumonia is listed as a leading cause of death in the ICU.

In the latest study, the researchers at the University of Melbourne knocked out the most popular belief that topical medication applied to patients' airway lowers pneumonia rates. Rather, they found that the use of topical antibiotics during clinical trials to prevent pneumonia in patients kept at the intensive care units increased the rate of pneumonia.

According to the study, nearly 20 percent of the patients kept in the intensive care units develop ventilator-linked pneumonia.

In the study led by associated professor James Hurley, University of Melbourne's Rural Health Academic Centre, Ballarat, the data of 206 international publications was analyzed. They looked at the publications pneumonia prevention methods in the ICU over the last 30 years.

The analysis conducted over the last 10 years produced surprising results that helps improve the understanding of how to evaluate pneumonia prevention methods in the ICU. During the analysis, the researchers found that the use of topical antibiotics increased the risk of pneumonia in patients kept in ICU by disrupting the balance of bacteria, not only among those receiving antibiotics but also in the group that were co-located in the ICU.

Of the all the published clinical trials, among the control group the use of topical antibiotics, the rate of pneumonia increased by almost 40 percent.

"This changed flora is spread around the ICU environment to other patients through cross-infection," Associate Professor Hurley said.
"This surprising finding is not apparent in any one study examined in isolation - it requires a meta-analysis of the control group pneumonia rates in all 206 studies to demonstrate these findings."

The researchers conclude that the use of topical antibiotics to prevent pneumonia in ICU patients in unsafe and hazardous method.

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