Infections caused by a specific type of antibiotic-resistant bacteria are on the rise in U.S. children, according to a study published in the March 20 online Journal of Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society.
The drug-resistant bacteria, called Enterobacteriaceae, produces an enzyme – extended-spectrum beta-lacamase (ESBL) – that renders many strong antibiotics ineffective. While rare, the bacteria is showing up in children of all ages, but increasingly in those who are 1 to 5 years old, and the concern is that treatment options are dwindling.
“Some infections in children that have typically been treated with oral antibiotics in the past may now require hospitalization, treatment with intravenous drugs, or both, as there may not be an oral treatment option available,” leady study author Latania K. Logan, MD, an assistant professor of pediatrics and a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, said in a university news release.
Logan and her team of researchers analyzed resistance patterns in data collected from 370,000 children nationwide between 1999 and 2011. They focused on the prevalence of ESBL and measured the rates of resistance to third-generation cephalosporins, a major type of antibiotic used to treat many infections.
Study results showed that ESBL-producing bacteria increased from 0.28 percent in 1999 to 0.92 percent in 2011. Resistance to third-generation cephalosporins rose from 1.4 percent to 3.0 percent.
“These antibiotic-resistant bacteria have traditionally been found in healthcare settings but are increasingly being found in the community, in people who have not had a significant history of healthcare exposure,” said Logan.
“In our study, though previous medical histories of the subjects were unknown, 51.3 percent of the children with these infections presented in the outpatient or ambulatory setting,” she added.
In a 2013 report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) raised red flags of warning, calling ESBLs a “serious concern” and a significant threat to public health. The agency pointed to unnecessary or inappropriately prescribed antibiotics as a cause for antibiotic resistance.
The researchers cautioned physicians to obtain cultures for suspected bacterial infections to assure children are getting appropriate antibiotics. In addition, Logan and her colleagues pointed to the need for more drug development aimed at the needs of younger patients.
“”The overwhelming majority of current research for new pharmaceuticals against antibiotic-resistant organisms is in adults,” said Logan. “More research is needed to define risk factors for these infections in children.”