Study Shows That Antibiotics Do Not Help In Treatment Of Malnourished Children

Study Shows That Antibiotics Do Not Help In Treatment Of Malnourished Children


A new study has shown that routine use of antibiotics have no impact on recovery of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, Live Mint reports.

The study, which was published in the latest issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, challenged the position held by the World Health Organization that SAM children receive antibiotics. The severe acute malnutrition, SAM, is seen as the worst form of malnutrition.

The study was conducted on 2,399 children Madarounfa, Niger from October 2012 to November 2013 by international non-profit Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and its research arm Epicentre.

A part of the research was conducted on SAM children without complications that require hospitalisation. During this study, the researchers assigned children six to 59 months of age to receive either amoxicillin antibiotics or placebo for seven days. Nutritional recovery occurred in 65.9 percent of children in the group that received amoxicillin and in 62.7 percent of the children in the placebo group.

“There was no significant difference in likelihood of nutritional recovery with amoxicillin versus placebo,” said Myrto Schaefer, MSFdeputy medical director. “This finding challenges the prevailing view that routine antibiotic therapy to treat malnutrition is always necessary or beneficial.”

According to the current guideline of the World Health Organization, children with severe acute malnutrition who do not have health complications that require hospitalisation should “receive special, high-energy food and antibiotics to treat infection.”

Back in 1999 when children with severe acute malnutrition were being treated as patients, the World Health Organization recommended routine use of broad-spectrum antibiotics for the management of severe acute malnutrition. In the last couple of years, the World Health Organization and the United Nations have endorsed a community-based model for the managing malnutrition, in which children with uncomplicated severe acute malnutrition are treated at home with ready-to-use therapeutic food, and broad use of antibiotics is still recommended.

One of the problems of using antibiotics over the years is that they can contribute to antibiotics resistance. Medical experts have been issuing warnings on this over the years.

The problem of using antibiotics to treat severe acute malnutrition is not thereby limited to the fact that it does not offer any benefit to the children, it also contributes to development of antibiotics that can even make simple disease very expensive to treat. In Niger, routine use of antibiotics for the treatment of SAM accounts for 15% of all antibiotic use among children younger than five.

“Given the cost and public health consequences of emerging antibiotic resistance associated with routine antibiotic use, current practices in the treatment of malnutrition should be questioned and studied further,” said Rebecca Grais, director of research at Epicentre.

Africa is one of the worst hit continents in terms of malnourishments, with hundreds of thousands of people not having access to foods that contain required nourishment.

Over the years, the World Health Organization, the United Nations and non-profit organizations have been working around the clock to see that this problem is reduced and properly dealt with in order to save hundreds of thousands of dying children in the continent.