MRSA Infections on the Rise in Kids
MRSA Head and Neck Infections in Children Jump in 6-Year Period
Jan. 20, 2009 -- There has been an "alarming rise" in
antibiotic-resistant head and neck infections in young children in recent
years, researchers from Emory University in Atlanta report.
Specifically, researchers say more and more elementary school-aged children
are developing Staphylococcus aureus ("staph," or S.
aureus) infections that do not respond to the antibiotic methicillin. The
bacteria responsible for such infections are called MRSA (for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus
aureus). MRSA is a common culprit in head and neck infections, and doctors
believe it's responsible for almost every skin infection.
Before the 1980s, most MRSA infections occurred in patients who were
hospitalized. But in the past decade, the bacteria have become more common in
crowded community environments, such as nursing homes and prisons, and among
those with no known risk factors, according to information in the journal
"In recent years, there have been increasing reports of
community-acquired MRSA infections in children," the authors write in the
For the study, Iman Naseri, MD, and colleagues from Emory's department of
otolaryngology reviewed pediatric head and neck infection records from more
than 300 hospitals in the U.S. between 2001 and 2006.
Over the six-year period, MRSA head and neck infections in children jumped
from 12% of all S. aureus infections in the study in 2001 to 28% in
2006. The average age of the children was about 6 1/2. Most MRSA head and neck
infections occurred in the ears (34%), followed by the nose and sinuses (28.3%)
and the throat and neck (14.2%).
The findings, published in the January issue of Archives of
Otolaryngology -- Head & Neck Surgery, have prompted a call for more
cautious use of antibiotics. According to the FDA, increasing use of
antibiotics plays a large role in the development of antibiotic resistance. The
U.S. government calls antibiotic resistance a major public health threat.
"Judicious use of antibiotic agents and increased effectiveness in
diagnosis and treatment are warranted to reduce further antimicrobial drug
resistance in pediatric head and neck infections," Naseri's team
The authors say their results "depict an alarming increase in MRSA in
the United States." They encourage more rapid testing of suspected head and
neck infections so that caregivers may prescribe the appropriate antibiotic
treatment immediately. Using the wrong antibiotics or using antibiotics to
treat a viral infection (such as a cold) can lead to further drug resistance,
according to the FDA.
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