Washington: Children in low and middle countries (LMICs) are being prescribed an average of 25 antibiotics during their first five years of life, which is an excess and could resist their ability to fight pathogens, says a recent study.
Gunther Fink, lead author of the study and head of the Household Economics and Health Systems Research Unit at Swiss TPH, said: "We knew children in LMICs are sick more often, and we knew antibiotic prescription rates are high in many countries. What we did not know was how these elements translate into actual antibiotic exposure--and the results are rather alarming."
Antimicrobial resistance is considered as one of the global health and development threat today, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Excessive use of antibiotics worldwide is one such factor contributing to the threat. Mid-low countries often have children who fall sick frequently and they visit the hospital only to be overprescribed by antibiotics.
In Tanzania, for instance, several studies have shown that over 90 per cent of children who visit a health facility receive an antibiotic, although only in about 20 per cent of the treatment of the case was actually required. Swiss TPH and Harvard Chan School research team analyzed data from 2007-2017 from health facilities and household surveys from eight countries: Haiti, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Nepal, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda.
The study has found that on an average child received 25 antibiotic prescriptions through age five a 'remarkable estimate', the authors wrote, given that two antibiotic prescriptions per year are considered excessive in many high-income settings.
Results showed that antibiotics were administered in 81 per cent of cases for children with a respiratory illness, in 50 per cent for children with diarrhoea, and in 28 per cent for children with malaria.
The excessive intake of antibiotics can also result in a concrete health impact on children. Valerie D'Acremont said: "Excess antibiotic use destroys the natural gut flora which is essential to fighting pathogens." The research team is currently comparing policies at a country level to identify best practices that lead to lower antibiotic prescription rates.