Alternatives to antibiotics for mild infections could curb drug resistance, study suggests

Pills in pill container
Offering alternatives to antibiotics for mild infections could curb the growth of superbugs, according to a new study. (Getty/Viperfzk)

A new study suggests that the development of alternative therapies for mild infections could help reduce antibiotic resistance, thereby preserving the drugs' effectiveness for use in severe infections.

Widespread use of antibiotics against certain mild infections, such as strep throat, may contribute significantly to the development of antibiotic resistance. The research, published in PLOS Biology, indicates that these clinically mild conditions are easy targets for alternative therapies to antibiotics. 

RELATED: HHS rolls out antibiotic stewardship phase of program targeting healthcare-associated infections 

Curbing antibiotic prescriptions, particularly broad-spectrum, powerful drugs, is the main strategy to fight the spread of deadly superbugs. Groups like the National Quality Forum have issued guidelines to help providers improve their antibiotic stewardship strategies. 

The researchers took a closer look specifically at pharyngitis to offer suggestions for alternatives to antibiotics. For example, antivirulence drugs could reduce the length of the infection and manage the symptoms. Trying alternative therapies alongside shorter courses of medication and narrow-spectrum antibiotics could slow the growth of antibiotic resistance, the researchers concluded. 

RELATED: World is running out of antibiotics to treat superbugs, WHO says 

"The best option for the patient is that which strikes the best balance between treatment benefit and side effects," the researchers wrote. "Alternative therapeutics can therefore be better for the patient, given that the infection is sufficiently mild that the difference in treatment efficacy does not outweigh the difference in … side effects." 

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