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January 2000  -  Volume 3  -  Issue 1

Health Issues:
Unnecessary Use of Antibiotics May Increase the Risk of Serious Pneumococcal Infections in Children
From the medical experts of The Nemours Foundation

Patterns of antibiotics may be associated with an increased risk of acquiring a serious infection from antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Streptococcus Pneumoniae is the organism most frequently associated with ear infections, and the leading cause of serious bacterial infections in U.S. children. The vaccine currently available to protect against pneumococcal disease is not reliably effective for children under the age of 2 years, who are the most vulnerable to severe complications.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in conjunction with investigators form universities and medical centers in the U.S. and Canada, identified 187 children with serious S. Pneumoniae infections. Factors influencing the risk of acquiring a serious pneumococcal infection were determined by comparing surveys of the parents of these children to results from parents of children without an infection of this type. Children with and underlying chronic illness are most susceptible to pneumococcal infections. Children who attended child care centers were at greater risk for infection than children who did not. Among infants, breast feeding was associated with a significant decrease in the risk of infection. S. Pneumoniae resistant to treatment with penicillin was more likely to be found in children who had been recently treated with an antibiotic, had had an ear infection, or attended child care centers. Children who attended child care centers were breast-fed less frequently and had a higher incidence of ear infection than other children.

What This Means to You

Inappropriate antibiotic use may encourage the development of bacteria resistant medication. The unnecessary use of antibiotics for children could put them at higher risk for a serious bacterial infection caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Discuss the necessity for antibiotic treatment of you child's infections with her doctor.

Copyright 1999. The Nemours Foundation. Used with permission.

January 2000 - Volume 3 Issue 1 - Articles