Penicillin Allergy Testing May Reduce 'Superbug' Risk, Study Says

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People who are allergic to penicillin are often prescribed much stronger antibiotics, increasing antibiotic resistance and their risk for serious drug-resistant infections. A study conducted by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston suggests testing for penicillin allergy, which is now done in fewer than 1 percent of people believed to be allergic to penicillin, could help lower this risk. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology reports that more than 90 percent of these people are not truly allergic to penicillin or have outgrown the allergy.

For this study, the researchers analyzed outpatient primary care medical records for millions of people in the United Kingdom, assessing rates of antibiotic-resistant infections like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile (C. diff. or C. difficile). They determined that people whose medical records indicated a penicillin allergy had a 69 percent greater risk for MRSA and a 26 percent higher risk for C. difficile than those without a penicillin allergy, even when adjusting for other risk factors.

According to the researchers, more than 50 percent of the increased MRSA risk, and 35 percent of the increased C. difficile risk, is associated with the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics in people believed to be allergic to penicillin. Drug-resistant infections are an increasingly dangerous, global public health threat.

Sourced from: The BMJ