Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers: U.S. Children Becoming Antibiotic-Resistant
June 1, 2017
A new study published in the Journal of Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society revealed a staggering statistic: 3 out of 5 children under 18-years-old who are admitted to hospitals already have an infection that is resistant to treatment by antibiotics. With this rate increasing, children are now at a greater risk for developing untreatable infections than ever before.
Antibiotic resistance occurs when the medicine is unable to effectively kill or control the growth of the bacterium that is being targeted. Instead, the bacterium becomes resistant to treatment and continues to multiply and spread inside the body, causing more serious medical problems that can lead to dangerous infections and death.
The study included 48 children’s hospitals across the country and spanned 8 years. In that period of time, almost 110,000 children had infections caused by Enterobacteriaceae, a bacteria with many strains that have become resistant to treatment by antibiotics. Enterobacteriacaea’s family includes well-known pathogens Salmonella and E. coli, as well as others.
The children who had Enterobacteriaceae-caused infections stayed in the hospital an average of 20% longer than kids who had more treatable infections, like those that antibiotics can properly wipe out. The general rule of thumb when it comes to being in the hospital is that it is safer to get in, get treated and get out. Longer hospital stays increase the risk of medical complications and infection, often due to exposure.
One of the study’s authors said that the biggest contributing factor to this potential health crisis is how often antibiotics are used to treat children. The professor of pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia estimates that antibiotics are overused at least 30% of the time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that out of every 1,000 people being treated, doctors give 842 of them antibiotics as medical treatment.
Taking antibiotics when it isn’t necessary may seem harmless, but in reality it is quite dangerous for not just you, but everyone. The Mayo Clinic cites the risk of improperly prescribing antibiotics as a significant contributing force behind the development of antibiotic resistance. At times, doctors mistakenly prescribe antibiotics for a viral infection; but antibiotics are only meant to treat bacterial ones. This happens because a doctor may want to give treatment before test results have come back in or because patients take medicine that they have left over or illegally purchase to get rid of symptoms quickly. There is a danger behind not taking a full course of antibiotics or using leftover prescriptions. In order to effectively kill all bacterium, a full course of doctor-prescribed antibiotics must be taken. When a patient doesn’t take that full course, the surviving bacterium can become resistant to future treatment.
Another element behind the growing antibiotic resistance is use for agricultural purposes. Animals that produce food, such as cows and pigs, are frequently given antibiotics in order to grow larger as well as to treat disease. As a result, these animals develop antibiotic resistance and bacterium is more likely to grow and flourish in their bodies. This bacterium can spread to people through physical contact, or simply by eating contaminated food.
Children are particularly vulnerable to developing a resistance to antibiotics because of things like gender, certain preexisting medical conditions, age and other variables. Their immune systems are not fully developed which also puts them at greater risk, but it is still not fully clear to researchers why the rate of antibiotic-resistant children is increasing at a steady pace.
What we do know is that there are certain things, such as improperly prescribing antibiotics, not taking the full course of medication, and antibiotics for agricultural use – to name a few – that significantly increase a child’s chances of becoming resistant to them. Rates of antibiotic resistance are rising among children and are a concern for the entire population because it is making previously treatable infections potentially untreatable. The CDC is urging Americans to stay safe and fight against antibiotic resistance, encouraging families to learn when antibiotics are necessary and to speak with their doctors when their illness can instead be treated with over-the-counter medications.
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