Children hospitalized with skin and soft tissue infections: a guide to antibacterial selection and treatment

Joseph V Vayalumkal, Tajdin Jadavji
Paediatric Drugs 2006, 8 (2): 99-111
Skin and soft tissue infections in children are an important cause for hospitalization. A thorough history and physical examination can provide clues to the pathogens involved. Collection of purulent discharge from lesions should be completed prior to initiating antimicrobial therapy, and results of bacteriologic studies (Gram stain and culture) should guide therapeutic decisions. The main pathogens involved in these infections are Staphylococcus aureus and group A beta-hemolytic streptococci, but enteric organisms also play a role especially in nosocomial infections. Increasing antibacterial resistance is becoming a major problem in the treatment of these infections worldwide. Specifically, the rise of methicillin-resistant S. aureus and glycopeptide-resistant S. aureus pose challenges for the future. Infections of the skin and soft tissues can be broadly classified based on the extent of tissue involvement. Superficial infections such as erysipelas, cellulitis, bullous impetigo, bite infections, and periorbital cellulitis may require hospitalization and parenteral antibacterials. Deeper infections such as orbital cellulitis, necrotizing fasciitis, and pyomyositis require surgical intervention as well as parenteral antibacterial therapy. Surgery plays a key role in the treatment of abscesses and for the debridement of necrotic tissue in deep infections. Intravenous immunoglobulin, as an adjunctive therapy, can be helpful in treating necrotizing fasciitis. For most infections an antistaphylococcal beta-lactam antibacterial is first-line therapy. Third-generation cephalosporins and beta-lactam/beta-lactamase inhibitor antibacterials as well as clindamycin or metronidazole are often required to provide broad-spectrum coverage for polymicrobial infections.Special populations, such as immunocompromised children, those with an allergy to penicillins, and those that acquire infections in hospitals, require specific antibacterial strategies. These usually involve broader antimicrobial coverage with increased Gram-negative (including antipseudomonal) and anerobic coverage. In patients with a true allergy to penicillins, clindamycin and vancomycin play an important role in treating Gram-positive infections. Newer antibacterial agents, such as linezolid and quinupristin/dalfopristin, are increasingly being studied in children for the treatment of skin and soft tissue infections. These agents hold promise for the future especially in the treatment of highly resistant, Gram-positive organisms such as methicillin-resistant S. aureus, vancomycin-resistant S. aureus, and vancomycin-resistant enterococci.

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