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A finger-prick test could reduce antibiotic use in patients with COPD

A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that a simple finger-prick test could help doctors avoid giving people with COPD antibiotics when they are not needed.

People with COPD find it harder to breathe than people without COPD. Sometimes people have flare-ups, when their symptoms get much worse than normal. Often people with COPD are given antibiotics by their doctor when they have a flare-up, but some research suggests that not all patients need antibiotics. 

Taking antibiotics when they are not needed contributes to antibiotic resistance. This is when bacteria that would usually be killed by an antibiotic survive, which can lead to infections that are not easily treatable using antibiotics.

This study looked at whether a finger-prick test helped doctors know if their patients with COPD needed antibiotics. The test can be done quickly and easily by a doctor and measures a type of protein (known as C reactive protein or ‘CRP’) in the blood.

The researchers found that if patients had low levels of CRP, antibiotics did not help them get better from a flare-up. Importantly, not taking antibiotics did not impact their recovery, or how often they saw their GP or other healthcare professionals. 

This test, once checked with further good-quality research, could benefit people with COPD and help to combat antibiotic resistance.

Read the research press release

Read our factsheet on living well with COPD

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