Addicted to antibiotics

09:32, November 09, 2010      

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Parents for their children to be attached to intravenous drips at the Xiangfan No 1 Hospital in Xiangfan, Hubei province, on Oct 26. Overuse of antibiotics has become a big problem in China. (Source: China Daily/Gong Bo)

Overuse of medication creating superbugs and drug-resistant babies. Li Li in Beijing reports.

When Yu Liya's month-old daughter was diagnosed with pneumonia in September, she reluctantly agreed to let doctors put the child on a course of third-generation cephalosporin.

Although the trained pharmacist from Chongqing was fully aware of the antibiotic and its side effects, such as nausea and diarrhea, she was not about to take any chances with her baby's health.

"The doctors said they weren't sure if the cause of the illness was a bacterial infection," said Yu, 27, who was both relieved and angered when test results a week later showed no evidence of such an infection. "My daughter could have recovered without antibiotics," she complained.

With a hospital usage rate of roughly 70 percent nationwide, more than double the level recommended by the World Health Organization, China is now a nation "addicted" to antibiotics.

Health experts say this rampant abuse is not only increasing the risk of superbugs, such as the NDM-1 strain that hit the mainland last month, but is also leading to more babies being born who are resistant to powerful medication.

At Chongqing Southwest Hospital, where Yu works, pediatricians said they have already found many newborns are resistant to antimicrobial drugs, which work against disease-producing micro-organisms.


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