London, Aug 23

Oral steroids should not be used for treating acute lower respiratory tract infection or chest infections in adults who don't have asthma or other chronic lung disease as they do not reduce the duration or severity of symptoms, according to a new study.

"Oral and inhaled steroids are known to be highly effective in treating acute asthma as well as infective flares of other long-term lung conditions but need to be used carefully because of the risk of unwanted side effects," said Michael Moore, Professor at the University of Southampton in the UK.

For the study, published in the journal JAMA, the team looked at 398 non-asthmatic adults with acute chest infections -- but no evidence of pneumonia and not requiring immediate antibiotic treatment -- who were randomly split into two groups, one receiving 40 mg of the oral steroid "prednisolone" for five days and one receiving a placebo over the same time period.

"We have conclusively demonstrated steroids are not effective in patients with the symptoms of chest infections, such as shortness of breath, wheeze and cough with phlegm that overlap with acute asthma," Moore added.

Moore said that alternative methods of treating chest infections should be found to reduce the amount of antibiotics being used to combat anti-microbial resistance, which is considered a global health crisis.

It does not look as if steroids are the answer, he said.

"More needs to be done to find alternative treatments to antibiotics if we are to get ahead of antibiotic resistance, which is increasing at an alarming rate. Herbal remedies could have a potential role to play," Moore noted.

 

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