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IV Antibiotics Could Help Treat Skin Infections

Study found two drugs worked as well as standard medication, with far fewer infusions needed
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Both of the new antibiotics worked against MRSA skin infections in their respective studies. But whether they are effective for infections of other body tissue "remains to be seen," said Chambers, who wrote an editorial that accompanied the studies.

Staph bacteria, including MRSA, can cause serious infections of the blood, bones and organs such as the heart and lungs.

Corey said the new drugs should "absolutely" be tested against those types of infections, too.

The oritavancin trial included 954 patients with wound infections (from surgery or accidents) or other skin infections that were inflamed, swollen and causing systemic symptoms like fever.

Half of the patients were randomly assigned to get one infusion of oritavancin, while the other half received IV vancomycin twice a day, for seven to 10 days. The treatments were equally effective: 80 percent of patients in each group were considered cured within a couple weeks of their last treatment.

The findings were similar in the dalbavancin trial, led by Dr. Helen Boucher of Tufts University in Boston.

There, patients received either two infusions of the drug, one week apart, or twice-daily vancomycin for at least three days. In both groups, 80 percent of patients were fever-free and showing no more growth in the skin infection within three days of starting treatment.

As for side effects, all three antibiotics caused problems such as nausea and diarrhea in a relatively small number of patients.

Chambers said longer-term safety is still a question with the new antibiotics. Both take weeks to clear from the body, he noted -- and in theory, that might cause an allergic reaction or other problems in certain patients.

"We haven't seen that in studies, where patients have been followed for 60 days," Corey said. But, he added, once drugs are used in the real world, rare risks can emerge.

The other concern, Corey said, is that if patients are sent home soon after treatment, those who develop more-serious "deep" infections -- like a blood infection -- will not be caught as quickly.

Still, he and Chambers said the benefit of preventing long hospital stays could be substantial.

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