A study led by the University of Sydney uncovered that due to high rates of antibiotic resistance, many drugs recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) have shown less than 50% effectiveness in managing common childhood infections like pneumonia, sepsis, and meningitis. Regions in South-East Asia and the Pacific, including Indonesia and the Philippines, are particularly impacted, witnessing numerous unnecessary child fatalities due to antibiotic resistance.
Phoebe Williams, the lead author from the University’s School of Public Health, highlighted the rising cases of multidrug-resistant bacterial infections in children globally. Notably, antibiotic resistance poses a more significant challenge for children than for adults, as new antibiotics are less likely to be tested and accessible for the younger population. Dr. Williams emphasized the urgent need for global attention, stating, “The burden of antimicrobial resistance is upon us. Antibiotic resistance is escalating faster than our current realization. We direly need innovative solutions to halt the spread of invasive multidrug-resistant infections, preventing the needless loss of thousands of young lives each year.”
The World Health Organization has categorized antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as one of the top 10 global public health threats. Each year, an estimated three million cases of sepsis affect newborns globally, leading to up to 570,000 deaths, with many caused by the lack of effective antibiotics against resistant bacteria. The research stresses the immediate necessity to update global antibiotic guidelines to match the swiftly evolving rates of antimicrobial resistance, as the most recent guideline from the WHO dates back to 2013.
The study indicated that a specific antibiotic, ceftriaxone, is likely to be effective in treating only one in three cases of sepsis or meningitis in newborns. Similarly, gentamicin, commonly prescribed alongside aminopenicillins, displayed low effectiveness in combating bloodstream infections in babies and children, effectively treating fewer than half of the cases. The analysis encompassed 6,648 bacterial isolates from 11 countries and 86 publications to evaluate antibiotic susceptibility concerning common bacteria causing childhood infections.