Symptom reporting, healthcare-seeking behaviour and antibiotic use for common infections: protocol for Bug Watch, a prospective community cohort study

Catherine M Smith, Anne Conolly, Christopher Fuller, Suzanne Hill, Fabiana Lorencatto, Franziska Marcheselli, Susan Michie, Jennifer S Mindell, Matthew J Ridd, Laura J Shallcross, Georgios Tsakos, Andrew Hayward, Ellen B Fragaszy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
150 Downloads (Pure)


INTRODUCTION: Antimicrobial resistance is a significant worldwide problem largely driven by selective pressure exerted through antibiotic use. Preserving antibiotics requires identification of opportunities to safely reduce prescriptions, for example in the management of mild common infections in the community. However, more information is needed on how infections are usually managed and what proportion lead to consultation and antibiotic use. The aim of this study is to quantify consultation and prescribing patterns in the community for a range of common acute infection syndromes (respiratory, gastrointestinal, skin/soft tissue, mouth/dental, eye and urinary tract). This will inform development of interventions to improve antibiotic stewardship as part of a larger programme of work, Preserving Antibiotics through Safe Stewardship.

METHODS AND ANALYSIS: This will be an online prospective community cohort study in England. We will invite 19 510 adults who previously took part in a nationally representative survey (the Health Survey for England) and consented to be contacted about future studies. Adults will also be asked to register their children. Data collection will consist of a baseline registration survey followed by weekly surveys sent by email for 6 months. Weekly surveys will collect information on symptoms of common infections, healthcare-seeking behaviour and use of treatments including antibiotics. We will calculate the proportions of infection syndromes that lead to General Practitioner consultation and antibiotic prescription. We will investigate how healthcare-seeking and treatment behaviours vary by demographics, social deprivation, infection profiles and knowledge and attitudes towards antibiotics, and will apply behavioural theory to investigate barriers and enablers to these behaviours.

ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: This study has been given ethical approval by the University College London Research Ethics Committee (ID 11813/001). Each participant will provide informed consent upon registration. We will disseminate our work through publication in peer-reviewed academic journals. Anonymised data will be made available through the UK Data Service (

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere028676
Number of pages6
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2019

Bibliographical note

© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2019. Re-use permitted under CC BY. Published by BMJ.


  • epidemiology
  • infectious diseases
  • primary care
  • public health


Dive into the research topics of 'Symptom reporting, healthcare-seeking behaviour and antibiotic use for common infections: protocol for Bug Watch, a prospective community cohort study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this