Kids who get lots of antibiotics from their doctors are more likely to harbor the MRSA superbug, although it’s still rare, a new study of British youngsters has found.
While that doesn’t prove the drugs are to blame for the antibiotic-resistant bacterium, it would make biological sense, researchers say.
MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, first arrived in the U.S. in the 1960s. But it wasn’t until 1980, when it infected a burn victim in a Seattle hospital and caused a devastating outbreak, that doctors realized how serious the situation really was.
While infections caught in hospitals have been declining in recent years, there is less certainty about those contracted outside hospitals — so-called community-acquired MRSA.
Studies have already shown that adults with several antibiotic prescriptions were more likely to harbor MRSA later on, so the new study focused on kids who’d gotten the diagnosis between 1994 and 2007.
Of 297 children who tested positive for MRSA, more than half (53 percent) had been prescribed at least one antibiotic between 30 and 180 days before the diagnosis (the last 30 days were excluded to make sure the drug hadn’t been used to treat MRSA.)
By contrast, only 14 percent of more than 9,000 kids who’d visited the same doctors but didn’t have MRSA had recently been taking antibiotics.
After accounting for differences between the two groups of children — such as hospital stays or other diseases they might have — that amounted to a three-fold difference in the risk of harboring MRSA.
The study provides more evidence to support redoubling our efforts to decrease antibiotic use.
Parents should freely discuss with their physician if they feel that antibiotics may be overprescribed.