The report was published in the May 2 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
One expert doesn't think this treatment is anything new.
"I know keeping you on antibiotics will prevent cellulitis from recurring," said Dr. Michele Green, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York City. "The problem is that the protective effect diminishes once drug therapy is stopped.
"This is what I do with older people. I keep them on antibiotics for a longer period of time so that they don't have a problem, but once you take them off they're just as vulnerable as they were before," Green said. "That's just common sense."
In addition, Green worries that keeping people on antibiotics for extended periods helps build the bacteria's resistance to the drug.
For the new study, Williams' team randomly assigned 274 people who had suffered from cellulitis of the leg that had been treated to one year of treatment with low-dose penicillin or placebos.
Over three years of follow-up, people taking penicillin saw a recurrence of cellulitis 626 days after the drug was stopped, compared with 532 days for those in the placebo group, the researchers found.
While on penicillin, 30 people had a recurrence of cellulitis, compared with 51 patients taking the placebo, they found.
To find out more about cellulitis, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: Hywel Williams, Ph.D., professor, dermato-epidemiology, University of Nottingham, England; Michele Green, M.D., dermatologist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; May 2, 2013, New England Journal of Medicine
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