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Acute gastroenteritis in children : what role for antibacterials?

The aim of this article is to define the currently accepted role of antibacterials in the treatment of acute gastroenteritis in children. Most cases of acute gastroenteritis in children are viral, self-limited, and need only supportive treatment. Appropriate fluid and electrolyte therapy, with close attention to nutrition, remain central to therapy.Antibacterial therapy serves as an adjunct, to shorten the clinical course, eradicate causative organisms, reduce transmission, and prevent invasive complications. Selection of antibacterials to use in acute bacterial gastroenteritis is based on clinical diagnosis of the likely pathogen prior to definitive laboratory results. Antibacterial therapy should be restricted to specific bacterial pathogens and disease presentations. In general, infections with Shigella spp. and Vibrio cholera should usually be treated with antibacterials, while antibacterials are only used in severe unresponsive infections with Salmonella, Yersinia, Aeromonas, Campylobacter, Plesiomonas spp., and Clostridium difficile. Antibacterials should be avoided in enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli infection. However, empiric therapy may be appropriate in the presence of a severe illness with bloody diarrhea and stool leucocytes, particularly in infancy and the immunocompromised. The benefits and risks of adverse drug reactions should be weighed before prescribing antibacterials. Moreover, a major concern is the emergence of antibacterial-resistant strains due to the widespread use of antibacterial agents.

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