Antibiotic use in low-income and middle-income countries continues to rise despite the knowledge that antibiotic overuse can lead to antimicrobial resistance. There is a paucity of detailed data on the use of antibiotics in primary care in low-resource settings.To describe the presentation of acute infections and the indications for antibiotic prescription.A 2-year retrospective review of routinely collected data.All 32 primary care units in one district in northern Thailand.Patients attending primary care with a history of fever, documented temperature, International Statistical Classification of Diseases 10 code for infection or prescribed a systemic antibiotic. Patients attending after the initiation of a study on C-reactive protein testing in four centres were excluded.The proportion of patients prescribed an antibiotic and the frequency of clinical presentations.762 868 patients attended the health centres, of whom 103 196 met the inclusion criteria, 5966 were excluded resulting in 97 230 attendances consisting of 83 661 illness episodes.46.9% (39 242) of the patients were prescribed an antibiotic during their illness. Indications for antibiotic prescription in the multivariable logistic regression analysis included male sex (adjusted OR (aOR) 1.21 (95% CI 1.16 to 1.28), p<0.001), adults (aOR 1.77 (95% CI 1.57 to 2), p<0.001) and a temperature >37.5°C (aOR 1.24 (95% CI 1.03 to 1.48), p=0.020). 77.9% of the presentations were for respiratory-related problems, of which 98.6% were upper respiratory tract infections. The leading infection diagnoses were common cold (50%), acute pharyngitis (18.9%) and acute tonsillitis (5%) which were prescribed antibiotics in 10.5%, 88.7% and 87.1% of cases, respectively. Amoxicillin was the most commonly prescribed antibiotic.Nearly half of the patients received an antibiotic, the majority of whom had a respiratory infection. The results can be used to plan interventions to improve the rational use of antibiotics. Further studies in private facilities, pharmacies and dental clinics are required.
Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit, Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand.