Children May Not Need Antibiotics for Acute Infective Conjunctivitis

The above head line appeared in a June 24, 2005 article from the online Medscape from WebMD. This article took it's origin from the results of a brand new study published in the June 22, 2006 British research journal, The Lancet.

In this study 326 children with a diagnosis of conjunctivitis between age 6 months to 12 years were selected from medical practices in the UK. These children were divided into two groupings. One group received eye drops of the antibiotic chloramphenicol, as the other group got placebo eye drops. Neither the physicians nor the patients knew if they were receiving the placebo or the actual antibiotic.

The children were re-examined at day 7 and a follow up was done 6 weeks later. Eye swabs were obtained for bacterial and viral analysis. The results of the study on day seven showed that of the 155 children in the placebo group, 128 of them, or 83% were listed as cured. This compared to 140 being listed as cured of the 162 children, representing 86%, in the group that actually got the antibiotic chloramphenicol. The difference noted is statistically insignificant, therefore researchers noted no real difference between the two groups.

In the 6 week follow up researchers found that further conjunctivitis episodes occurred in seven children (4%) receiving chloramphenicol and in five children (3%) receiving placebo. They also found that any additional adverse events occurred at a similar rate in both groups.

Lead author Peter W. Rose, from the University of Oxford, England said, "We have established that symptoms correct without antibiotics in most kids with acute infective conjunctivitis. The health economic argument against antibiotic prescription for acute conjunctivitis is compelling."

The conclusion and recommendations of the authors were, "Parents should be encouraged to cleanse their children's eyes if an antibiotic is not prescribed. Parents should be encouraged to treat children themselves without medical consultation, unless their child develops unusual symptoms or the symptoms persist for more than a week."

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