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50% of Australian infants prescribed antibiotics

Half of all Australian infants are treated with antibiotics during their first year of life. This shocking figure is the result of a study released in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health.

This figure, one of the highest rates in industrialised nations, is putting Australian infants at risk with the possibility of health repercussions later in life. The study was conducted by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Barwon Health and Deakin University. Antibiotics are predominantly prescribed for sepsis in infants 0-1 month old and ear infections for infants 3-12 months old.

The study noted a significant proportion of the antibiotics prescribed to infants were for viral infections. This is of concern with the rise of antimicrobial resistance globally. Australia has one of the highest exposures to antibiotics in the world with prescription of antibiotics having increased 230 per cent in the last decade and Australian infants being prescribed antibiotics 500 per cent more than Swiss infants.

“Australian babies in this large study were exposed to considerably more antibiotics than the majority of their international counterparts,” lead author Professor David Burgner said.

“A significant proportion of antibiotics appear to be prescribed for viral infections, which do not respond to antibiotics,” he said. “On average, babies suffer around eight viral illnesses per year, so they are really very common, particularly over winter.”


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