Shorter and Longer Courses of Antibiotics for Common Infections and the Association with Reductions of Infection-Related Complications including Hospital Admissions

Victoria Palin*, William Welfare, Darren M. Ashcroft, Tjeerd Pieter Van Staa

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    10 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Antimicrobial resistance is a serious global health concern that emphasizes completing treatment course. Recently, the effectiveness of short versus longer antibiotic courses has been questioned. This study investigated the duration of prescribed antibiotics, their effectiveness, and associated risk of infection-related complications. Methods: Clinical Practice Research Datalink identified 4 million acute infection episodes prescribed an antibiotic in primary care between January 2014 - June 2014, England. Prescriptions were categorized by duration. Risk of infection-related hospitalizations within 30 days was modelled overall and by infection type. Risk was assessed immediately after or within 30 days follow-up to measure confounders given similar and varying exposure, respectively. An interaction term with follow-up time assessed whether hazard ratios (HRs) remained parallel with different antibiotic durations. Results: The duration of antibiotic courses increased over the study period (5.2-19.1%); 6-7 days were most common (66.9%). Most infection-related hospitalizations occurred with prescriptions of 8-15 days (0.21%), accompanied by greater risk of infection-related complications compared to patients who received a short prescription (HR: 1.75 [95% CI: 1.54-2.00]). Comparing HRs in the first 5 days versus remaining follow-up showed longer antibiotic courses were no more effective than shorter courses (1.02 [95% CI: 0.90-1.16] and 0.92 [95% CI: 0.75-1.12]). No variation by infection-type was observed. Conclusions: Equal effectiveness was found between shorter and longer antibiotic courses and the reduction of infection-related hospitalizations. Stewardship programs should recommend shorter courses of antibiotics for acute infections. Further research is required for treating patients with a complex medical history. Summary Prescribing of longer courses increased over the study period. The majority of hospitalizations occurred for patients receiving longer courses. Risk of developing a complication (immediate vs remaining follow-up) found longer courses were no more effective than shorter courses.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1805-1812
    Number of pages8
    JournalClinical Infectious Diseases
    Issue number10
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2021 The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press for the Infectious Diseases Society of America.


    • Antibiotic duration
    • Antibiotics
    • Antimicrobial resistance
    • Infection complication


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