(CN) – Researchers said Thursday that potentially deadly bacterial infections are on the rise among children in the United States as rates of antibiotic resistance increase.
In a study published in the Journal of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society, researchers analyzed the resistance rates to several classes of antibiotics among isolates of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a type of bacteria that is a common cause of health care-associated infections.
Using data collected from pediatric patients nationwide, the team found that P. aeruginosa bacteria became more resistant to several classes of antibiotics between 1999 and 2012, including doubling their resistance to carbapenems – a class of antibiotics that are considered a last-resort treatment for highly resistant infections.
“Highly drug-resistant P. aeruginosa infections leave health care providers with limited – or sometimes no – antibiotic choices available, and these antibiotics are less safe and more toxic in children,” study co-author Sumanth Gandra said.
The team also found the proportion of P. aeruginosa isolates resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics increased from 15.4 percent in 1999 to 26 percent in 2012. Resistance to antibiotics was more common in pediatric patients in intensive care units, the Midwest, and among those 13-17 years old.
About 51,000 health care-associated P. aeruginosa infections occur in U.S. adults and children annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 6,000 – 13 percent – of these infections are resistant to multiple classes of antibiotics, leading to about 400 deaths each year.
While rates of antibiotic resistance are rising nationally overall, limited existing research examines trends of P. aeruginosa infection in children. The team’s findings highlight the need for better tracking of drug-resistant infections and for effective strategies to prevent such infections in children.
The researchers also recommend antibiotic stewardship programs to address inappropriate antibiotic prescribing.
The use of antibiotics is also controversial in the food industry, as restaurants like McDonalds still use medically important antibiotics in animals ultimately fed to humans.
Scientists have warned that widespread use of antibiotics on healthy farm animals contributes to increased rates of drug-resistant “superbug” infections, killing at least 23,000 Americans annually.