BOSTON (AP) -- Children suspected of being infected with a particularly nasty form of the E. coli food poisoning bug should not be treated with antibiotics because they may trigger dangerous complications, a study warns.
A variety of the usually harmless E. coli bacteria called 0157:H7 causes an estimated 73,000 cases of food poisoning in the United States annually. The infection often spreads through eating undercooked contaminated meat and typically causes bloody diarrhea.
A rare complication in children, usually under age 5, is hemolytic uremic syndrome, which results in destruction of red blood cells and kidney failure. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 2 percent to 7 percent of E. coli 0157:H7 infections lead to the complication, and between 3 percent and 5
percent of those victims die.
A study by doctors from Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle found the link with antibiotic use, which had already been suspected. Their study is scheduled to be published June 29 in the New England Journal of Medicine, which released it Wednesday.
The Seattle doctors reviewed the cases of 71 children under age 10 who had diarrhea caused by the bacterial infection between 1997
and 1999. They found that hemolytic uremic syndrome developed in five of the nine children given antibiotics, compared with five of the 62 who did not receive the medicines.
E. coli 0157:H7 infections usually clear up without treatment, and use of antibiotics is not recommended for any patients.
While the latest study does not prove that antibiotics are to blame for the syndrome, the team led by Dr. Craig S. Wong wrote that the evidence of an association "is strong and plausible."
They theorized that antibiotics cause the release of toxins from injured bacteria into the intestine.
On the Net: New England Journal: http://www.nejm.org