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  • 1 October 2015 to 30 September 2016
  • Project No: 276
  • Funding round: FR 9
  • Infection

Antibiotics are frequently prescribed by GPs for short-term illnesses like chest infections which are a common reason why patients visit their GP.  Although previous research has shown that antibiotics are not always effective for symptoms such as chesty coughs, there are few medications that can be offered to patients and GPs will therefore still prescribe antibiotics.  This is causing an unnecessary increase in the use of antibiotics.  This increases the resistance that microbes have to these medications and which is making our antibiotics far less effective.  It is important that we carry out scientific research into other treatments that could be offered to patients instead of antibiotics and which can give patients effective relief from their symptoms.

Although other treatments like paracetamol and steroids have been researched before, there has been an increasing amount of interest in herbal extracts.  Herbal extracts are readily available for patients to buy themselves to use and appear to be increasingly popular in the UK.  This suggests there is a growing public interest in herbs and which could be an acceptable alternative to antibiotics for patients.    

One particular herb called Andrographis paniculata (A. paniculata) has been used in Indian and Chinese herbal medicine for cough, cold and influenza and has been widely used in Sweden.  There is early-stage laboratory research that suggests this herbal extract may relieve symptoms by reducing inflammation, reducing fever and increasing the body’s defence against viruses.  Although scientific research such as randomised controlled trials has been carried out to see if this herbal extract is effective for coughs and influenza, there has never been a scientific summary of the research done before.   Therefore, in this study, we will collect and summarise information from relevant randomised controlled trials so that GPs know whether or not they can recommend this herbal extract to patients instead of prescribing antibiotics.   

Projects by themes

We have grouped projects under the five SPCR themes in this document

Evidence synthesis working group

The collaboration will be conducting 18 high impact systematic reviews, under four workstreams.