Study: Children who take antibiotics more prone to contracting 'superbugs'

Tuesday, August 16, 2011 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: antibiotics, superbugs, health news

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(NaturalNews) A group of Canadian researchers has found a link between taking antibiotics and a higher likelihood of harboring deadly "superbugs" like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which kills tens of thousands of people every year. Published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, the breakthrough study found that children who take at least one antibiotic are three times as likely to develop MRSA than children who take no antibiotics, while children who take four or more antibiotics are 18 times more likely to develop MRSA.

It is commonly believed that superbugs are found only in dirty, drug-ridden hospitals, where patients end up contracting it from contaminated surfaces and surgical instruments. But according to the study, community-acquired MRSA, which means it is contracted outside the hospital setting in the general public, is becoming a major health problem, and one that appears clearly linked to overuse of antibiotics.

For their study, a research team from McGill University in Montreal examined antibiotic prescription data from over 400 doctors' offices across the UK. Since studies had previously observed in adults a link between antibiotics and superbugs, the team this time focused primarily on children who were diagnosed with MRSA between 1994 and 1997.

Among 297 children who tested positive for MRSA, 53 percent of them had been prescribed an antibiotic between 30 and 180 days prior to their diagnosis. Only 14 percent of children who visited the same doctors, but that did not have MRSA, had taken any antibiotics at all. After adjusting for various outside factors, the team determined a three-fold and eighteen-fold increased risk of contracting a superbug when taking either one, or four or more, antibiotics, respectively.

"This is an intriguing observation that we expect will generate some research into the mechanism of MRSA development," said Samy Suissa, lead author of the study. "Parents should freely discuss with their physician if they feel that antibiotics may be overprescribed."

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