Earlier studies have revealed that antimicrobial resistance is responsible for thousands of deaths each year globally, and unless urgently addressed, it may cause more than 10 million people to die every year by 2050.
The researchers, including those from Harvard University in the US, said one major factor contributing to this global health crisis is the excessive use of antibiotics worldwide.
They said while detailed information about antibiotic use in high-income countries is available, little is known regarding the consumption and exposure of these drugs among children in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
Citing an example, they said, in the African country of Tanzania, more than 90 per cent of children who visit a health care facility receive an antibiotic, although only in about a fifth of these cases treatment was actually required.
In the first-of-its-kind study, published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases, the researchers looked at the total antibiotic prescription given for children under the age of five in eight LMICs — including Nepal, Namibia, Kenya, and Haiti.
“What is unique about this study is that it provides a much more comprehensive picture of pediatric antibiotic exposure in LMICs than what has been reported previously. It combines both household data on where and when children are brought for care with data from direct observations of health care workers caring for sick children,” said Jessica Cohen, study co-author and an associate professor at Harvard University.