Antibiotic resistance in children’s E.coli can be high

Antibiotic resistance in children’s E. coli, a bacteria that is the most common cause of urinary tract infection, is high against many antibiotics commonly prescribed in primary care and could make them ineffective as first line treatments, according to a study led by researchers at the University of Bristol and Imperial College London.

Antibiotic resistance is one of the most serious global health threats faced in modern medicine. The threat of bacterial resistance has been compared to that of pandemic flu by the Chief Medical Officer for England Dame Sally Davies. It has been estimated that by 2050, ten million lives each year will be at risk from antibiotic resistant infections. Children are frequent consumers of antibiotics worldwide, and this routine use has been shown to increase the probability of antibiotic resistance in adults with urinary tract infections. However little is known about the prevalence of bacterial resistance in children or the risk factors of importance in this group.

The University of Bristol reports the research team investigated the prevalence of antibiotic resistance in urinary E. coli from pre-school children. E. coli is responsible for over 80% of all urinary tract infections (UTIs) in children. They also measured risk factors associated with resistant urinary E. coli, including previous antibiotic exposure.

They found a high prevalence of antibiotic resistance in urinary E. coli against several commonly prescribed antibiotics including amoxicillin, trimethoprim and co-amoxiclav. Almost one third of all E. coli were multi-drug resistant (resistant to three or more antibiotic groups). There was also an association between exposure to antibiotics within the previous three months and increased likelihood of a resistant urinary E. coli.

The study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research School for Primary Care Research and published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, involved secondary analysis of data from eight hundred and twenty four children under five consulting in primary care for an acute illness. The children had previously been recruited to the Diagnosis of Urinary Tract infection in Young children (DUTY) study, which aimed to improve the diagnosis of UTIs in children.

Lead author, Dr Ashley Bryce, a Senior Research Associate at the Centre for Academic Primary Care, University of Bristol, said “Our study shows that antibiotic resistance to this common bacteria found in children is high, especially when antibiotics have previously been recently prescribed. Frequent exposure to antibiotics can disrupt the normal balance of bacteria within the urinary tract and gut, which can lead to increased risk of bacterial infection. GPs should therefore consider the impact and necessity of further antibiotic treatment before prescribing.”

Dr Céire Costelloe from the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Healthcare Associated Infection and Antimicrobial Resistance at Imperial College London, who co-led the research, said “Future research must prioritise increasing our understanding of antibiotic resistance in bacteria that commonly cause infections, so that prescribing guidelines can be updated to improve patient outcomes.”

This study follows on from the team’s previous systematic review published in the BMJ in 2016 exploring the global prevalence of antibiotic resistance in children’s urinary tract infection caused by E. coli.

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