Main Article Content
Inappropriate antibiotic prescribing, such as that for viral illness, is common in primary care. This is of growing interest given concerns around antimicrobial resistance and harms associated with unnecessary treatment; however, current data limitations have hindered population-based estimates of the proportion of community-prescribed antibiotics attributable to common respiratory viruses.
Objectives and Approach
To estimate the proportion of antibiotics prescribed in primary care to young children attributable to common respiratory viruses, including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza, human metapneumovirus (HuMPV) and parainfluenza. We leveraged two unique sources of comprehensive, linked population-based administrative data on dispensed antibiotic prescriptions and laboratory tests for respiratory viruses for all Scottish children (<5 years). We fit time series negative binomial models to predict weekly antibiotic prescribing rates from positive viral tests rates for the period April 1, 2009 through Dec 27, 2017. Using linked demographic and hospitalization data, we stratified our analysis by age, presence of high-risk chronic medical conditions, and antibiotic class.
We included data on over 6 million antibiotic prescriptions among nearly 800,000 children. An estimated 6.9% (95% CI: 5.6,8.3), 2.4% (1.7,3.1), and 2.3% (0.8,3.9) of prescribed antibiotics were attributable to RSV, influenza and HuMPV, respectively. RSV was consistently associated with the highest proportion of antibiotics prescribed across all analyses but particularly among children without chronic conditions [4.30% (3.19, 5.41)] and for amoxicillin [8.10% (6.43, 9.76)] and macrolide prescriptions [7.65% (6.14, 9.16)].
Conclusion / Implications
Nearly 14% of antibiotics prescribed to Scottish children in this study were attributable to common viral pathogens such as RSV for which antibiotics are not recommended. This highlights clear targets for antibiotic stewardship programs and suggests antibiotic prescribing could be reduced once an RSV vaccine is introduced.
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