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BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 30 June 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:13

This article has a correction. Please see:

  1. Alison Tonks (, associate editor

    Chloramphenicol eye drops are unnecessary for uncomplicated conjunctivitis

    Chloramphenicol eye drops are no better than placebo for children with conjunctivitis, a randomised trial has found. The authors think primary care doctors should stop prescribing chloramphenicol eye drops for children with uncomplicated conjunctivitis and should instead tell parents to keep the affected eye clean and to come back if it doesn't get better. The trial, which included 326 children aged 12 years or less, reported clinical cure rates of 83% (128/155) among children given placebo drops for seven days compared with 86% (140/162) among children given chloramphenicol. Four fifths of the children had bacterial conjunctivitis. Children given placebo drops were no more likely to relapse and no less likely to report side effects than the others, but they took about a third of a day longer to get better.

    Credit: LANCET

    This is the first trial done exclusively in primary care, where chloramphenicol eye drops are a standard treatment for conjunctivitis in children. Changing doctors' prescribing habits and patients' expectations will be difficult, particularly in countries such as the UK where schools and nurseries often exclude children until they are treated. The economic arguments are compelling, however. Every year one million children present to UK general practitioners with conjunctivitis; that's over a million consultations and potentially a million prescriptions.

    Breast feeding is linked to better eyesight among children in Singapore

    Researchers have found a link between having been breast fed and better eyesight among schoolchildren in Singapore. Their cross sectional study included 797 children aged 10-12 whose parents filled in a questionnaire one month before their child's routine eye test at school. The questionnaire included questions about breast feeding, but parents were unaware that this was the focus of the study. Overall, 521 children (65%) were shortsighted, but the prevalence of shortsightedness was lower among those who had been at least partly breast fed (259/418 (62.0%) v 262/379 (69.1%), P …

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