Vaccination of children is a powerful tool against antibiotic resistance. We are talking primarily about low and middle-income countries. Scientists from the University of California at Berkeley write about this in a recent study published in the journal Nature.
Overuse of antibiotics worldwide leads to the spread of drug-resistant infections. This means that people will be more susceptible to diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, and pneumonia. The main blow from resistance will be suffered by third world countries.
A new study showed that immunization with two common vaccines – pneumococcal conjugate and rotavirus – significantly reduces the incidence of acute respiratory infections and diarrhea among young children. In addition, fewer children will receive antibiotic treatment.
“Currently, almost all countries have already developed or are in the process of developing national plans to overcome the crisis caused by antibiotic resistance. They create these plans for their healthcare systems, but so far there is very little evidence of which interventions are effective, ”said Joseph Leonard, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Berkeley. “By providing accurate evidence of the significant effects that were achieved only with these two vaccines, our work demonstrates that vaccines should be among the interventions that are a priority.”
Pneumococcal conjugate vaccines protect against the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus), which can cause respiratory and ear infections, sepsis, and meningitis, while rotavirus vaccines protect against diarrheal infections caused by rotavirus. Although rotavirus infection alone cannot be treated with antibiotics, diarrhea caused by rotavirus is difficult to distinguish from diarrhea caused by a bacterial infection. Therefore, many children with rotavirus diarrhea receive antibiotic treatment, even when this is not necessary.
Using demographic studies from 78 low- and middle-income countries, researchers found that pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines prevent an estimated 19.7% of acute respiratory infections cured by antibiotics and 11.4% of episodes of diarrhea cured by antibiotics in children under the age of five.
By combining data on the effectiveness of the two vaccines with current vaccination rates, the team predicts that vaccines now prevent 23.8 million and 13.6 million episodes of acute respiratory infections and diarrhea treated with antibiotics, respectively, among children under five years of age.