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Antibiotic overuse causes life-threatening bacterial infections in children

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Nearly three-quarters of pediatric Clostridium difficile infections contracted outside of a hospital setting occur in children who were given antibiotics, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports in a March 7 press release. C. difficile causes severe diarrhea, and can be fatal. According to the CDC, the infection causes 14,000 deaths each year among children and adults in the United States.

The CDC study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found the highest incidents of infection occurred among white children between ages 12 and 23 months.

While it may seem counter-intuitive that antibiotics could cause bacterial infections, antibiotics will kill beneficial bacteria that protect the body from harmful infections such as C difficile. Antibiotics are commonly prescribed to treat sinus, ear and upper respiratory infections in children. According to the CDC, an earlier study showed that 50 percent of antibiotic prescriptions for treating upper respiratory infections were unnecessary.

Overuse of antibiotics has drawn much attention in the health community, particularly because it promotes the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains. President Obama, in his fiscal year 2015 budget plan, is proposing funding for the CDC to improve antibiotic prescription practices.

The CDC is urging physicians to improve their prescription practices to avoid placing patients at risk.

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