Resistant bacteria is making effective treatment of common infections more and more challenging and children are especially vulnerable. Children are more susceptible to resistant bacteria because their immune systems are not fully developed. Children differ from adults in that they have many ways of being exposed to germs and infections because their behavior is different. Children living in poverty are even more susceptible to resistant bacteria.
Children are more susceptible to resistant bacteria because their immune systems are not fully developed.
A baby is born with some protection against infections, but this protection only lasts for a few weeks after birth or when breastfeeding has stopped. Eventually, babies produce their own antibodies, but it takes time for their immune systems to fully develop. Antibiotics help fight off infections, but when bacteria are resistant to antibiotics, babies are left almost defenseless in fighting off these bacteria.
Children differ from adults in that they have many ways of being exposed to germs and infections because their behavior is different.
Babies crawl on the ground and put their hands and objects in their mouth as they explore and learn. Babies are often unaware of risks and are, therefore, unable to make choices to protect their health and prevent infection.
Children living in poverty are even more susceptible to resistant bacteria.
Over 300 million children live on less than $1.90/day. Children living in poverty are even more susceptible to resistant bacteria, for several reasons. Poor children often lack access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). Over 785 million people still don’t have clean water close to home. Children in poverty suffer from suboptimal housing conditions and poor nutrition. Today, nearly one in three children under the age of five are malnourished, which leaves children too weak to fight off infections and even more dependent on antibiotics. Furthermore, these children do not have access to quality health care. At least half of the world still does not have access to critically important health care services. But even when services are available the quality can be questionable. Data from a BMJ report shows that one in four health care facilities lacked basic water services, one in five had no sanitation services and two in five health facilities lack hand hygiene facilities at the points of care.
These factors help explain why infectious diseases are still the leading cause of death among children under the age of five. For children lucky enough to have access to quality health care many of the main childhood infections such as pneumonia, sepsis, and typhoid can be treated with effective antibiotics. However, if antibiotics are not used appropriately so they remain effective, even an infection from a scrape will become near impossible to treat. Right now, one of every three cases of meningitis and neonatal sepsis in sub-Saharan Africa are caused by bacteria resistant to antibiotics; 38% of healthy children in a village in Latin America carried bacteria resistant to colistin – a last line antibiotic; and in Europe, neonates bear the largest burden of antibiotic resistant bacteria, which has increased over the years.
Next week marks the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the rights of the Child (UNCRC), the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history. As the world celebrates and reflects upon the successes in ensuring children’s rights are protected, the global community must also ensure that resistant bacteria do not catapult us back in time unraveling all of the achievements towards realizing children’s rights.
Okomo U. et al. The Lancet Infectious Diseases 19;11 (November 2019): 1219–34).
Giani et al, Eurosurveillance 23, (2018): 1800115e.
Cassini A., et al, Attributable deaths and disability-adjusted life-years caused by infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the EU and the European Economic Area in 2015: a population-level modelling analysis. The Lancet Infectious Diseases 19, (2018): 56–66).
More news and opinion from 2019
- ReAct’s 2019 wrap up and 2020 expectations
- Blog post by UNDP and ReAct: Antimicrobial resistance: An emerging crisis
- Water, sanitation and hygiene services critical to curbing antibiotic quick fix
- Diagnostics: Antibiotic susceptibility
- ReAct highlights during World Antibiotic Awareness week 2019
- 2019 AMR photo competition prizes announced
- Launch of UNICEF’s institutional guidance on antimicrobial resistance
- Proposed ban on colistin for animal use announced in Indonesia
- School children led celebration of World Toilet Day and World Antibiotic Awareness Week
- 10 Innovate4AMR-winning teams enjoyed 3-day workshop in Geneva
- After 4 collaborative meeting days: Actions for the future in Latin America
- Four key points from joint comments to One Health Global Leaders Group on AMR
- Why are children more vulnerable to AMR?
- Dr Yoel Lubell, Health Economist, on Thailand, AMR, UCH and cultural factors driving AMR
- UHC and AMR: The Thai Experience
- Why do effective antibiotics matter for quality of care and patient safety?
- New ReAct policy brief: Antimicrobial resistance and universal health coverage – What’s the deal?
- Three key takeaways from the ReAct Africa conference
- Diagnostics: Species identification
- AMR-specific indicator proposed for monitoring Sustainable Development Goals
- Five focus areas at the 2nd Ministerial Conference on AMR hosted by the Netherlands
- Safety concerns of fecal microbiota transplants
- Upcoming ReAct Africa Conference: universal health coverage and antimicrobial resistance in focus
- Mother Earth conference in Argentina – the environment in focus
- Diagnostics: What are we talking about?
- Connecting global to local civil-society-agenda on AMR at CSO convening in Geneva
- ReAct colleagues featured in WHO Bulletin as leading profiles in the work on reacting to antibiotic resistance
- RAN stakeholder at WHO IPC consultation – for standards and guidelines in African Union member states
- WHA conversation on Antibiotic Resistance as a Global Development Problem co-organized by ReAct
- Insights from ReAct Asia Pacific project on antibiotic stewardship in secondary level hospitals in India
- Open letter to UN Member States from former IACG members Anthony So and Otto Cars
- ReAct UHC Intervention at UNGA Multi-stakeholder Hearing for High-level Meeting on UHC
- ReAct Latin America honors Earth Day
- Medicines Patent Pool’s view on the role of licenses for antibiotics – World Intellectual Property Day
- Second time for Innovate4AMR competition!
- World Health Day 2019: Universal Health Coverage
- Diagnostics: Constraints for successful implementation
- Antibiotic Shortages: magnitude, causes and possible solutions: A new WHO meeting report
- Erry Setyawan, FAO, on Indonesian NAP: We need to work together to make it possible to manage AMR
- ReAct’s new 5-year strategic plan receives funding from Sida
- How infections spread and how to stop them
- Generating data for policy and practice