Background: Over 90% of all antibiotics in Europe are prescribed in primary care. It is important that antibiotics are prescribed that are likely to be effective; however, information about antibiotic resistance in the community is incomplete. The aim of our study is to investigate the appropriateness of antibiotic prescribing in primary care in Europe by collecting and combining patterns of antibiotic resistance patterns and antibiotic prescription patterns in primary care. We will also evaluate the appropriateness of national antibiotic prescription guidelines in relation to resistance patterns.
Methods/design: Antibiotic resistance will be studied in an opportunistic sample from the community in nine European countries. Resistance data will be collected by taking a nose swab of persons (N = 4,000 per country) visiting a primary care practice for a non-infectious disease. Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumoniae will be isolated and tested for resistance to a range of antibiotics in one central laboratory. Data on antibiotic prescriptions over the past 5 years will be extracted from the electronic medical records of General Practitioners (GPs). The results of the study will include the prevalence and resistance data of the two species and 5 years of antibiotic prescription data in nine European countries. The odds of receiving an effective antibiotic in each country will be calculated as a measure for the appropriateness of prescribing. Multilevel analysis will be used to assess the appropriateness of prescribing. Relevant treatment guidelines of the nine participating countries will be evaluated using a standardized instrument and related to the resistance patterns in that country.
Discussion: This study will provide valuable and unique data concerning resistance patterns and prescription behaviour in primary care in nine European countries. It will provide evidence-based recommendations for antibiotic treatment guidelines that take resistance patterns into account which will be useful for both clinicians and policy makers. By improving antibiotic use we can move towards controlling the resistance problem globally.