Kids in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) are receiving an excessive amount of antibiotic prescriptions that could harm the children's ability to fight pathogens as well as increase antibiotic resistance worldwide, warns a new study.
Children in these countries received 25 antibiotic prescriptions through age five - a "remarkable" estimate, given that two antibiotic prescriptions per year are considered excessive in many high-income settings, said the study published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
"We knew children in LMICs are sick more often, and we knew antibiotic prescription rates are high in many countries. What we did not know was how these elements translate into actual antibiotic exposure - and the results are rather alarming," said lead author of the study Gunther Fink from Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH), Basel, Switzerland.
Antimicrobial resistance is one of today's biggest threats to global health and development, according to the World Health Organization.
One factor contributing to this global health threat is the excessive use of antibiotics worldwide.
The research team from Swiss TPH and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the US analysed data from 2007-2017 from health facilities and household surveys from eight countries: Haiti, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Nepal, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda.
Results showed that antibiotics were administered in 81 percent of cases for children with a respiratory illness, in 50 percent for children with diarrhoea, and in 28 percent for children with malaria.
The researchers found that the number of antibiotic prescriptions in early childhood varied from country to country.
While a child in Senegal received approximately one antibiotic prescription per year in the first five years of life, a child in Uganda was prescribed up to 12.
In comparison, a prior study showed that children under five in Europe receive less than one antibiotic prescription per year on average.
"This number is still high given that the vast majority of infections in this age group are of viral origin," said study co-author Valerie D'Acremont from Swiss TPH.