Study: Children overexposed to antibiotics

Kenyatta National Hospital

Kenyatta National Hospital, one of the facilities where research says babies are exposed to antibiotics.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Growth

What you need to know:

  • Benzylpenicillin, gentamycin and ceftriaxone the most-abused drugs in the top hospitals.

Seven out of 10 children under five years in three leading referral hospitals across the country were overly exposed to antibiotics in what could lead to resistance to the drugs in future, a study has shown.

The study published in Plus ONE Journal revealed that in the three facilities namely Kenyatta National Hospital, Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital and Coast Provincial General Hospital, antibiotics use was higher in children with 150 out of 224 sampled on different antibiotics.

“Antibiotic usage in the three hospitals was higher than what is being reported in high-income countries and lower than reports from other facilities in the country,” says the survey.

The overuse of antibiotics poses an increasing threat to children who develop or already have drug-resistant infections that are difficult or impossible to treat and can cause extended hospitalisation, disability and even death, says the World Health Organisation.

Also, the study which was published on June 16, revealed that the critical care unit (ICUs) and paediatric wards had the highest proportion of antibiotic users at 82 per cent and 60 per cent respectively. The study enrolled 1,071 consenting patients, 579 at KNH, 263 at MTRH and 229 at CPGH with the majority–53 per cent–being female. At the time of the study, 46 per cent of the patients received at least one antibiotic while the rest two or more.

“Antibiotics usage was higher among children below five years at 70 per cent than any other groups,” says the study that was led by Assistant professor Sylvia Omulo of the Washington State University.

The survey data was collected by hospital coordinators who conducted in-person interviews with administrators, and heads of infection prevention and control units on existing programmes.

From the records, 756 separate antibiotic prescriptions were recorded with KNH recording 383, CPGH 189 and MTRH 184.

At KNH, 44 per cent of antibiotics prescribed had at least one missed dose recorded compared with 52 per cent at Coast General with 33 per cent at MTRH.

There was some variability in the antibiotics used by the surveyed hospitals.

Amoxicillin and clavulanate were the most used antibiotics at KNH while ceftriaxone, a third-generation cephalosporin, was the most used at CPGH and MTRH. Metronidazole was the second most used antibiotic in all three hospitals.

Almost a third of all the antibiotics prescribed in all the three hospitals were in paedetric wards where benzylpenicillin, gentamycin and ceftriaxone the most preferred.

“Antibiotic resistance is a growing danger to everyone; however, there is limited data on children,” said Prof Jason Newland, a Washington University professor of pediatrics in the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and director of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Programme at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, where he treats patients.