E coli in the news

kertw at flash.net kertw at flash.net
Sat Aug 23 13:14:46 EST 1997

Jenny Williams wrote:
>  It is the doctors
> >who are prescribing these antibiotics for viral infections. If doctors
> >can't distinguish between bacteria and viruses, should we expect
> >journalists? :-)
> >
> Isn't it possible that the antibiotics are being prescribed not for the
> original virus infection, but to prevent a possible secondary bacterial
> infection?
> --
> Jenny Williams

Sure, it is possible to prescribe antibiotics to prevent bacterial 
infections, but several studies (sorry, no references) have shown the 
reflexive action of most internists to be "prescribe first, labwork 
later".  Many times these doctors can correctly guess the bacterial 
origin of some syndrome, and are able to begin antibiotic therapy much 
sooner without waiting for labwork, thus the incentive for guessing.  
In those cases of viral infection, the application of antibiotics 
isn't actually directly harmful to the patient, so there is really no 
impetus not to administer antimicrobials.  Consider also that potent 
antibiotics are available over the counter in many parts of the world, 
where people can self-medicate at will.  Great for selective 
amplification of resistant bacteria.
Kurt Watson

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