CDC urges physicians to improve prescribing practices to reduce harm

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Severe diarrheal illness in children linked to antibiotics prescribed

in doctor's offices

ATLANTA, March 7, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The majority of

pediatric Clostridium difficile infections, which are bacterial

infections that cause severe diarrhea and are potentially

life-threatening, occur among children in the general community who

recently took antibiotics prescribed in doctor's offices for other

conditions, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease

Control and Prevention published this week in Pediatrics.

The study showed that 71 percent of the cases of C. difficile

infection identified among children aged 1 through 17 years were

community-associated-that is, not associated with an overnight stay in

a healthcare facility. By contrast, two-thirds of C. difficile

infections in adults are associated with hospital stays.

Among the community-associated pediatric cases whose parents were

interviewed, 73 percent were prescribed antibiotics during the 12

weeks prior to their illness, usually in an outpatient setting such as

a doctor's office. Most of the children who received antibiotics were

being treated for ear, sinus, or upper respiratory infections.

Previous studies show that at least 50 percent of antibiotics

prescribed in doctor's offices for children are for respiratory

infections, most of which do not require antibiotics.

"Improved antibiotic prescribing is critical to protect the health of

our nation's children," said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.

"When antibiotics are prescribed incorrectly, our children are

needlessly put at risk for health problems including C. difficile

infection and dangerous antibiotic resistant infections."

The FY 2015 President's Budget requests funding for CDC to improve

outpatient antibiotic prescribing practices and protect patients from

infections, such as those caused by C. difficile. The CDC initiative

aims to reduce outpatient prescribing by up to 20 percent and

healthcare-associated C. difficile infections by 50 percent in five

years. A 50 percent reduction in healthcare-associated C. difficile

infections could save 20,000 lives, prevent 150,000 hospitalizations,

and cut more than $2 billion in healthcare costs.

C. difficile, which causes at least 250,000 infections in hospitalized

patients and 14,000 deaths every year among children and adults,

remains at all-time high levels. According to preliminary CDC data,

an estimated 17,000 children aged 1 through 17 years get C. difficile

infections every year. The Pediatrics study found that there was no

difference in the incidence of C. difficile infection among boys and

girls, and that the highest numbers were seen in white children and

those between the ages of 12 and 23 months.

Taking antibiotics is the most important risk factor for developing C.

difficile infections for both adults and children. When a person

takes antibiotics, beneficial bacteria that protect against infection

can be altered or even eliminated for several weeks to months. During

this time, patients can get sick from C. difficile picked up from

contaminated surfaces or spread from a health care provider's hands.

Although there have been significant improvements in antibiotic

prescribing for certain acute respiratory infections in children,

further improvement is greatly needed. In addition, it is critical

that parents avoid asking doctors to prescribe antibiotics for their

children and that doctors follow prescribing guidelines.

"As both a doctor and a mom, I know how difficult it is to see your

child suffer with something like an ear infection," said Lauri Hicks,

DO, director of CDC's Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work program.

"Antibiotics aren't always the answer. I urge parents to work with

their child's doctor to find the best treatment for the illness, which

may just be providing symptom relief."

For more information about the Get Smart program and improving

antibiotic prescribing practices in doctor's offices, visit

SOURCE Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

-0- 03/07/2014

/CONTACT: CDC Media Relations, (404) 639-3286,

/Web Site:

CO: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)




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