January 20, 2009

Infections On The Rise In Children

According to researchers, an increasing number of children in the U.S. are developing head and neck infections due to bacteria called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.

Researchers have called on doctors to be careful in prescribing antibiotics for MRSA, which has been labeled a drug-resistant "superbug."

"There is a nationwide increase in the prevalence of MRSA in children with head and neck infections that is alarming," Dr. Steven Sobol of Emory University told Reuters.

Previously, MRSA had only been a concern in hospitals, attacking patients who were already battling other sicknesses.  Current outbreaks in normally healthy children are raising concerns.

Sobol, whose study appears in the Archives of Otalaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, noted that some institutions have monitored MRSA among children with head and neck infections, including infections of the ear, nose, sinuses, or throat.

Researchers studied 21,009 children from the ages of 1 to 18 with head and neck infections caused by MRSA in 300 hospitals from 2001 to 2006.

In 2001, 12 percent of the infections showed resistance to antibiotics.  By 2006, the number had more than doubled to 28 percent.

A majority of the infections were ear infections acquired outside of hospitals.

The team is urging doctors to only prescribe antibiotics only when they feel it will be effective for head and neck infections.

According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 94,000 Americans suffer from MRSA caused infections each year.  Of those infections, 19,000 end in death.


Image Caption: S. aureus bacteria escaping destruction by human white blood cells Credit: Rocky Mountain Laboratories, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)


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