COMMONLY prescribed antibiotics do not help patients get better quicker, research by Southampton scientists has revealed.

A study led by the University of Southampton discovered that the antibiotic amoxicillin is no more effective at relieving symptoms than having no medication at all.

The drug, often used by doctors to treat chest infections such as bronchitis, was shown to make little difference in patients, even among the elderly.

In the study, 2,061 adults with chest infections across Europe were randomly assigned to receive either amoxicillin or a placebo three times a day for seven days.

Results found little difference in severity or duration of symptoms reported between the two groups.

This was true even for older patients aged 60 or more, who were generally healthy, where the drugs appeared to have a very limited effect.

Side effects Although significantly more patients in the placebo group experienced new or worsening symptoms – 19 per cent compared to 16 per cent – just two patients in the placebo group and one in the antibiotic group required hospitalisation.

Patients taking antibiotics reported significantly more side effects including nausea, rash, and diarrhoea, than those given placebo.

Paul Little, professor of primary care at the University of Southampton, said: “Patients given amoxicillin don’t recover much quicker or have significantly fewer symptoms.

“Indeed, using amoxicillin to treat respiratory infections in patients not suspected of having pneumonia is not likely to help and could be harmful.

“Our results show that most people get better on their own. But, given that a small number of patients will benefit from antibiotics, the challenge remains to identify these individuals.”