Antibiotics are often used for infections in children and babies, but they are increasingly ineffective. How dangerous is antibiotic resistance for children and are there alternatives?
Middle ear infections, sepsis, meningitis – if these illnesses are caused by bacteria, children are often treated with antibiotics. But less than 50% of antibiotics are effective, according to an Australian study led by the University of Sydney.
The bacteria no longer respond to the antibiotic and are resistant. There is a lack of new and effective means. This can be particularly dangerous for babies and children because their immune systems are still immature. Your immune system cannot yet adequately defend itself against invading bacteria
When administering antibiotics, it is not only the exact choice of antibiotic that is important, but also its dosage. This can often be difficult with antibiotic juices, which are more commonly prescribed for babies and young children than antibiotic tablets.
Because of course it’s easier to give a small child a spoonful of juice than to make him swallow a pill.
“It can happen that parents unintentionally make mistakes when dosing antibiotics. In 50 percent of all cases, children do not receive the amount prescribed by the doctor,” says Johannes Hübner from the German Society for Pediatric Infectious Diseases.
Antibiotics are not always necessary
If it is a serious bacterial infection, such as a strep infection, a urinary tract infection, or a respiratory tract infection, antibiotics are the treatment of choice. They inhibit the growth of bacteria, their reproduction or kill them. And antibiotics work quickly – if they work at all.
Another infection that many babies and children suffer from is middle ear infections. According to estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO), they are a common and widespread health disorder among children around the world.
In this disease, the mucous membranes of the ear swell, especially in the very thin and short connecting passage, the ear tube. The secretion can no longer flow and puts pressure on the eardrum. This causes children a lot of pain. Symptoms can resolve relatively quickly with antibiotics.
Are there alternatives?
Herbs with antimicrobial properties can also be used for some infectious diseases. These include garlic, goldenrod and echinacea. Oregano oil also has an antimicrobial effect. Saline solutions can help with respiratory infections. For middle ear infections, onion sachet is the classic home remedy.
But antibiotics are often the best solution. An example is sepsis, which must be treated immediately. If this does not happen, in the worst case scenario there is a risk of septic shock with organ failure, which could lead to death.
Sepsis usually occurs when an external wound becomes infected. This is not uncommon in children. If infectious agents enter the bloodstream or lymphatic system from there, the infection can quickly spread throughout the body and the condition can quickly worsen.
Worldwide, approximately three million cases of sepsis occur in newborns alone every year. About 570,000 of them die.
It all starts with the correct diagnosis
We often forget that only a bacterial infection can be treated with antibiotics, but a viral infection cannot. Therefore, it is important to make the correct diagnosis. This is an important step in treatment.
The situation is particularly dramatic in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. In Indonesia and the Philippines, thousands of children die every year because antibiotics are ineffective.
“On the one hand, not all the antibiotics we have in Europe are always available there. The other is the diagnosis. We now very consistently identify pathogens and test for antibiotic susceptibility. “We then use the antibiotic with the narrowest spectrum,” explains Johannes Hübner from the German Society for Pediatric Infectious Diseases.
Numbers have increased worldwide over the past 15 years. But new antibiotics will take a long time to arrive. “Research has neglected antibiotics for some time because antibiotic research is not profitable for pharmaceutical companies,” says Hübner.
Author: Gudrun Heise