11M+ unnecessary antibiotics prescribed to children each year

More than 11 million antibiotic prescriptions written for children each year may be unnecessary, according to a study in Pediatrics.

Researchers performed a meta-analysis of pediatric studies published between 2000 and 2011 to determine the prevalence of acute respiratory tract infections caused by bacteria (as opposed to viruses) and also looked at children under 18 who were evaluated in clinics to determine the prescribing rates of antibiotics for respiratory tract infections.

Based on their research, the study authors found 27.4 percent of children with respiratory tract infections had the infection caused by bacteria — but antimicrobial agents were prescribed during 56.9 percent of encounters for respiratory tract infections. This represents about 11.4 million potentially preventable antibiotic prescriptions annually, they found.

"Antimicrobials are prescribed almost twice as often as expected during outpatient [acute respiratory tract infection] visits, representing an important target for ongoing antimicrobial stewardship interventions," the study authors concluded.

Overprescribing of antibiotics plays a role in antibiotic resistance, which is considered to play a part in roughly 75,000 hospital-acquired infections each year in the U.S.

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