JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Macrolide resistance: an increasing concern for treatment failure in children

Michael R Jacobs, Candice E Johnson
Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal 2003, 22 (8): S131-8
14566999

BACKGROUND: Antimicrobial treatment of pediatric respiratory tract infections has evolved during the past 30 years as a result of antimicrobial resistance. The focus of antimicrobial therapy in these conditions has shifted from penicillins to other agents because of the dramatic increase in antimicrobial resistance among common respiratory pathogens, including Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae and Moraxella catarrhalis. It is important for clinicians to understand how resistance develops so that they can help prevent this phenomenon from occurring with other antimicrobials.

METHODS: This article reviews the published literature on resistance to macrolide antimicrobials among common pediatric respiratory tract pathogens and clinical and bacteriologic outcomes of infections with these pathogens.

RESULTS: Resistance among common pediatric respiratory tract pathogens to macrolides occurs through two main mechanisms, alteration of the target site and active efflux. Although resistance patterns vary by geographic region, the widespread use of macrolides has contributed to the emergence of both types of macrolide-resistant organisms. Conditions that favor the selection and proliferation of resistant strains include children with repeated, close contact who frequently receive antimicrobial treatment or prophylaxis, such as children who attend day care. Recent US surveillance data show that 20 to 30% of S. pneumoniae are resistant to macrolides, with approximately two-thirds of macrolide-resistant strains associated with an efflux mechanism and the remainder associated with a ribosomal methylase. Additionally, although less well-known, virtually all strains of H. influenzae have an intrinsic macrolide efflux pump. As resistance to macrolides has increased, clinical failures have resulted, and these agents are no longer considered appropriate for empiric first line antimicrobial therapy of acute otitis media and sinusitis unless patients are truly penicillin-allergic. Therefore, other antimicrobials are recommended for the empiric treatment of children with respiratory tract infections, including higher doses of amoxicillin and amoxicillin/clavulanate (90 mg/kg/day amoxicillin), cefuroxime axetil and intramuscular ceftriaxone.

CONCLUSIONS: As resistance to macrolides increases and clinical failures in children become more common with this class of antimicrobials, judicious use of antimicrobials is needed. This includes limiting antimicrobial use for viral infections and using the most effective agents when antimicrobials are clinically indicated, such as higher doses of amoxicillin and amoxicillin/clavulanate. Application of these principles may prevent proliferation and further development of resistance.

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