Medical experts are going against years of urging from doctors that we should complete every course of antibiotics. They claim that the warnings that an uncompleted course of antibiotics could result in bacteria becoming drug-resistant is a “myth” that should no longer be perpetuated.
The official line from the NHS is that “it’s essential to finish taking a prescribed course of antibiotics, even if you feel better, unless a healthcare professional tells you otherwise”. However, scientists are challenging this advice and saying that it is not actually informed by any scientific evidence. They argue that the insistence on completing a course of antibiotics could result in the build-up of resistance to the drugs and that patients could stop the course when they feel better. This is what a team of researchers have submitted to the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
So far there is no planned change to the advice the NHS and GPs will give to patients. Tim Peto, an Oxford professor, says he remembered being taught the importance of completing a course of antibiotics but could not work out from where it originated. “It went through word of mouth, before the internet,” he said. “Yes, it’s an urban myth.”
In fact Peto and his colleagues now believe the advice may have come from Alexander Fleming, the biologist who discovered penicillin.