Double check penicillin allergy

HEALTHCARE staff should double check patients who believe they are allergic to penicillin to reduce the risk of MRSA or C difficile, NICE has warned.

Evidence suggests around 10 per cent of the UK population has a penicillin allergy documented in their clinical notes, but only around five per cent of these people actually have a “true” penicillin allergy.

Those with a suspected allergy are more likely to be given broad-spectrum antibiotics which can put them at increased risk of developing MRSA and C difficile. It can also contribute to antimicrobial resistance.

New research by NICE found those noted as having a penicillin allergy – correctly or not – are almost 70 per cent more likely to develop the so-called hospital superbug MRSA. The study of nearly 300,000 patient records found they are also around 25 per cent more likely to develop C difficile.

NICE is urging health staff to ensure only bona fide penicillin allergies are recorded, in line with their guidance Drug allergy: diagnosis and management. It is also calling for responsible antibiotics prescribing in line with their guidance.

NICE deputy chief executive Professor Gillian Leng said: “Lots of people think they are allergic to penicillin because it gave them a rash when they were a child, their mum or dad told them they were allergic and it has stayed in their notes for decades. That is a very different thing to having a true penicillin allergy, which can result in a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction.

“If healthcare staff use NICE guidance to distinguish properly between the two, that could help stop the spread of both MRSA and antimicrobial resistance.”

Link: The risk of MRSA and C difficile in people with documented ‘penicillin allergy’

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