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Inappropriate prescribing contributes to high antibiotic exposure in young children in Australia.

BACKGROUND: Antibiotic exposure increases antimicrobial resistance and has also been associated with long-term harms, including allergies, inflammatory diseases and weight gain. We assessed antibiotic exposure in the first 2 years of life in Australian children, the factors influencing this and its appropriateness.

METHODS: Data from 1201 participants in the MIS BAIR randomized controlled trial were used. Multivariable logistic regression was used to identify factors associated with antibiotic exposure.

RESULTS: At 1 and 2 years of age, exposure to at least one course of antibiotics was 43% and 67%, with the highest first antibiotic prescription rate between 9 and 18 months. Amoxicillin was the most frequently used antibiotic (59%), followed by cefalexin (7%). The most common diagnoses for which antibiotics were prescribed were respiratory tract infections from 0 to 6 months of age and otitis media from 6 to 12 months. Factors associated with antibiotic exposure from 0 to 12 months of age were delivery by Caesarean section (adjusted odd-ratio (aOR) 1.5, 95%CI 1.1-1.9), birth in winter (aOR 1.7, 95%CI 1.2-2.4), maternal antibiotic exposure during the last trimester of pregnancy (aOR 1.6, 95%CI 1.1-2.3), cessation of breastfeeding by 6 months of age (aOR 1.5, 95%CI 1.1-2.0) and day-care attendance (aOR 1.4, 95%CI 1.1-1.8). Based on parent-reported questionnaires, 27% of infants were treated in the first year of life for conditions unlikely to need antibiotic treatment.

CONCLUSION: At least two-thirds of children were prescribed antibiotics in the first 2 years of life, and more than a quarter of these exposures may have been unnecessary.

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