In Bangladesh, children are fighting a difficult battle to survive antibiotic resistance – now, mid-pandemic, pneumonia is becoming untreatable via normal drugs
Children who had antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections were 17 times more likely than others without bacterial infections to die, according to more than 4,000 health records examined between 2014 and 2017.
The usual staph and strep infections that commonly cause pneumonia in the United States and elsewhere were relatively rare. Among the children who had pneumonia in Bangladesh, gram-negative bacteria were responsible for 77% of the infections – including Pseudomonas, E. coli, Salmonella and Klebsiella.
Essentially, antibiotic-resistant bacteria was present in 77% of cases. Antibiotic resistance has gone from a theoretical horizon to a sudden reality, beginning with this shift in Bangladesh.
‘These kids are already dying early’, says co-first author
Jason Harris, MD, MPH, co-first author of the study and chief of the division of Pediatric Global Health at the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, said: “These kids are already dying early because of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, from what would be a routine infection in other parts of the world.
“And this was at one hospital in Bangladesh. Extrapolate these findings across a country of 163 million people, and then to a larger region where antibiotic resistance is emerging, and the overall numbers are probably huge.”
Can this antibiotic resistance pandemic be stopped?
Dr Tahmeed Ahmed, PhD, senior author of the study, believes that antibiotics are being misused across Bangladesh – people are able to purchase them without a prescription to self-treat conditions like the common cold or fevers.
Dr Ahmed further commented: “We may be able to reduce this emerging bacterial resistance by improving antibiotic stewardship, particularly in the outpatient setting. What’s more, lack of access to clean water and adequate sanitation helps spread bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.”
According to him, improvements in healthcare infrastructure are long overdue.