MELBOURNE, July 28— Half of Australian children have been prescribed antibiotics in their first year, researchers found in a study published on Friday.
The study, compiled by the Murdoch Childrens’ Research Institute (MCRI), found that Australian children are taking more antibiotics than ever despite the rising threat of drug-resistant superbugs.
David Burgner, lead author of the study, said that the findings contradicted a concerted effort within the medical industry to reduce antibiotic intake.
“We found that by the age of one year, half of all infants had been prescribed at least one course of antibiotics and one in eight infants had been prescribed three or more courses of antibiotics,” Burgner told Xinhua News on Friday.
The prescription rate for infants was 150 percent higher than that in Britain, Burgner said, and 500 percent higher than in Switzerland.
Compared to 2007, the prescription rate for antibiotics for infants in Australia has risen 230 percent.
Though researchers could not determine what percentage of the prescriptions were justified, they did find that at least 20 percent of the prescriptions were for viral infections which antibiotics have no effect on.
Antibiotics were also often prescribed for ear infections, which they also generally ineffective in treating.
Burgner said that providing a better education for parents and medical practitioners was key in reducing the number of antibiotics taken by infants.
“Infections are very common in the preschool child; they have 8-12 infections per year and most are due to viruses. Antibiotics are potentially lifesaving for bacterial infections, but most infections in children are due to viruses and antibiotics do not work,” he said.
“So it is not in the child’s interest to always receive an antibiotic for an infection. Indeed, overuse of antibiotics contributes to antibiotic resistance and may have a longer term health consequences for the child.”
“Education of families and support for doctors are really important approaches. We also need to improve diagnostic tests, so that it is easier for doctors to decide whether an infection is due to a bacteria or virus.” (Xinhua)