University team’s heart illness death rate research

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Researchers in Sheffield have launched a project to find out whether cases of a life-threatening illness have increased since preventative antibiotics stopped being given to patients.

The team, from Sheffield University, want to find out whether an official guideline to end antibiotic cover for dental patients at risk of infective endocarditis - a serious infection of the inner lining of the heart - has led to a rise in cases.

Five years ago, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence said the drugs should not be given as they carried a risk of side-effects and allergic reactions, as well as helping to create more treatment-resistant ‘superbugs’.

Professor Martin Thornhill, professor of translational research in dentistry at the university’s School of Clinical Dentistry, said in up to 60 per cent of cases of infective endocarditis the bacteria that causes the infection had entered the blood from the mouth.

“It was previously the practice of dentists to give antibiotics to patients at risk before carrying out invasive dental work,” said Prof Thornhill.

“By studying if the number of cases has gone up since the guidance, we aim to produce evidence to determine if giving antibiotics really is effective.”

The study is being funded by a grant of almost £100,000 which was given to charity Heart Research UK by insurance firm Simplyhealth.