Children with asthma are 1.6 times more likely to be prescribed antibiotics than children without the condition, according to the results of a UK and Netherlands study presented to the European Respiratory Society International Congress in Milan on 12 September.
The research involved 1.5 million children from the UK, of whom 150,000 had been diagnosed with asthma, and 375,000 children from the Netherlands, including 30,000 with asthma.
The researchers compared antibiotic prescription data for children with and without asthma and compared the results of children in the Netherlands with those from the UK.
Both countries follow the same international asthma guidelines, which recommend that antibiotics should not generally be prescribed for asthma exacerbations.
The researchers found that children with asthma were approximately 1.6 times more likely to be prescribed antibiotics, compared with children without asthma. Antibiotic prescription rates were almost two-fold higher in the UK.
In the Netherlands there were 197 annual antibiotic prescriptions per 1,000 children with asthma, compared with 126 prescriptions per 1,000 children without asthma. In the UK there were 374 annual antibiotic prescriptions per 1,000 children with asthma, compared with 250 per 1,000 children without asthma.
Dr EsmÃ© Baan from the department of medical informatics, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, who was involved in the study, told delegates that antibiotics should only be given in cases of bacterial infection, but that her study had found most antibiotic prescriptions in children with asthma were for asthma exacerbations or bronchitis “which are often caused by a virus”.
She accepted it was difficult for prescribers to “differentiate” between a deterioration in asthma symptoms and a bacterial respiratory infection and added: “We think this might be leading to more antibiotic prescriptions in children with asthma.”