Rise in heart infections

18 November 2014        

Doctor using a stethoscope

Cases of infective endocarditis, a potentially fatal heart infection, have increased since dentists have reduced their use of an antibiotic.

Antibiotic prophylaxis was given before invasive dental procedures in patients at risk of developing infective endocarditis.

The study in the Lancet medical journal found an increase in infective endocarditis since the publication of NICE guidance in 2008 which led to a reduction in the prescribing of the antibiotic.

Risks of prescribing antibiotics to a lot of people include allergic reactions and the bacteria may become resistant to the antibiotics.

Dr Mike Knapton, our Associate Medical Director, said: “Infective endocarditis is a rare condition which affects fewer than 10 in 100,000 people a year in the UK.

“Most of these people already have some form of abnormality in the structure of the heart.

“This study shows a sharp reduction in antibiotic prescribing following the publication of the NICE guidance, and a significant rise in the number of cases of infective endocarditis.

“But they may not be causally linked and further studies are needed to explain the reasons for this trend.

“Other reasons could include changes to population make-up or an increase in risk-prone procedures.

“Antibiotic prescribing is not risk free and the authors suggest that 277 people would have to be given antibiotics to prevent one case of infective endocarditis.”