WEDNESDAY, May 1 (HealthDay News) -- For people who have suffered from cellulitis of the leg, a long course of low-dose penicillin prevents the painful infection from returning, British researchers report.
Once the penicillin is stopped, however, its protective effect diminishes and the condition can flare up again, the researchers noted.
"Low-dose penicillin substantially reduces the risk of further episodes of leg cellulitis in those who have had two or more previous episodes," said lead researcher Hywel Williams, a professor of dermato-epidemiology at the University of Nottingham.
"The penicillin reduced recurrences from 37 percent in the group taking placebo to 22 percent in those taking penicillin," Williams said. "But this effect only occurred in the period that folks took the penicillin. When they stopped the 12 months of penicillin, the protective effect wore off."
Cellulitis is a common infection of the skin and deep underlying tissues. The two most common causes are Staphylococcus (staph) bacteria and group A strep. The bacteria enter the body through an injury such as a bruise, burn, surgical cut or wound, as well as through athlete's foot.
Symptoms can include fever and chills, swollen glands or lymph nodes, and a rash with painful, red, tender skin. In addition, the skin may blister and scab over.
The usual treatment is antibiotics, but the condition commonly returns when treatment is stopped.
Doctors and their patients now have reliable information on a possible way of reducing recurrences of this disabling and painful recurrent disease, Williams said.
"We now know for the first time that low-dose penicillin works, but we don't know how long it should be taken for and whether giving long-term antibiotics may cause resistance problems in the community in the long term, or whether it should be given for people with a first epi
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