A new study in The Lancet Infectious Diseases has found that children in eight low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) receive a remarkably high number of antibiotics by the time they reach the age of 5.

The study, which looked at data on sick children who attended healthcare facilities in Haiti, Kenya, Malawi, Senegal, Namibia, Nepal, Tanzania, and Uganda over a 10-year period, found that the average number of antibiotic prescriptions written for children between birth and the age of 5 in these countries was 25.

Furthermore, although researchers from the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute  and Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health weren’t able to directly assess whether the prescriptions were appropriate, they estimate that anywhere from half to 80% of them are likely unnecessary.

“Overall, the results of our study suggest that antibiotic exposure of children in LMICs is extremely high, and that antibiotics prescriptions are, to a large extent, issued inappropriately,” the authors of the study wrote. “Given there are more than 500 million children younger than 5 years in LMICs, the contribution of this population to global antibiotic consumption, and therefore to the selection of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, is substantial.”

Illness, treatment increase antibiotic exposure


Credit: iStock, Fahroni

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