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.”