Infant Deaths Fall Sharply in Africa With Routine Antibiotics

Friday, April 27, 2018

By Donald G. McNeil

Two doses a year of an antibiotic can sharply cut death rates among infants in poor countries, perhaps by as much as 25 percent among the very young, researchers reported on Wednesday.

Their large study — of nearly 200,000 children in three African countries — raises the exciting possibility that deploying antibiotics as doctors do vaccines could rapidly reduce deaths among newborns and infants. Death rates in this age group have remained stubbornly high in poor countries even as deaths among all children under age 5 have dropped by half, thanks to vaccines against childhood diseases.

As a result of the study, the World Health Organization is considering whether to recommend routinely giving antibiotics to newborns.

“Our independent expert panel says this holds a lot of promise,” said Dr. Per Ashorn, a W.H.O. expert in maternal and child health. “But we will review it with very rigorous procedures.”

The agency will make a decision “as soon as possible, latest in 2019,” he added.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which paid for the study, “is optimistic that this will be a new tool to help prevent childhood mortality,” said Dr. Rasa Izadnegahdar, deputy director of global health at the foundation. “It’s an exciting time.”

Photo courtesy of psyberartist.

Source: New York Times (link opens in a new window)

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