Superbugs and Children In East Tennessee

By: Jessa Goddard Email
By: Jessa Goddard Email

Knoxville (WVLT) - If you have a child under seven, he or she has likely received a vaccine doctors say is generating new superbugs that cause ear infections.

Prevnar, which came on the market in 2000, prevents Pneumonia and other serious illnesses in children under two.

We're covering East Tennessee health with what you need to know about this dangerous side effect.

Before Prevnar, many babies and toddlers developed Pneumonia, Meningitis and serious blood infections that led to hearing loss, brain damage, and even death.

Over the last seven years, it's prevented thousands of infections and saved hundreds of lives.

But now, doctors say it's having an unfortunate side effect, promoting what they call "superbugs" that cause ear infections.

"And that's essentially what's happened. We've selected out the bad strains, and now the good ones have become bad and are growing," East Tennessee Children's Hospital Director of Infection Control Caroline Graber says prevnar prevents seven strains responsible for most cases of Pneumonia, Meningitis and deadly bloodstream infections.

But dozens more strep strains exist, and some have flourished and become resistant to antibiotics, since the vaccine combats the most common strains.

Graber says, "And the bacteria's pretty smart, and they have learned how to fight and become resistant to the antibiotics, and we've got to look for another one."

On Monday, doctors reported discovering the first germ that's resistant to all drugs approved to treat childhood ear infections.

Nine toddlers in New York have had the bug, and researchers say it's likely to turn up elsewhere.

"About 85 percent of ear infections are caused by viruses. Viruses aren't cured by antibiotics, they don't need antibiotics," Knox County Public Health Officer Doctor Martha Buchanan says avoiding antibiotics when they're not necessary is the best way to ensure they will work they are.

Buchanan says, "Because a bacteria is resistant to some antiobiotics, the ones that are most commonly used does not mean it's resistant to all antibiotics."

Prevnar manufacturer, Wyeth, is testing a new vaccine.

But it's at least two years away from FDA approval, and the CDC says the new strains could become a public health problem if infections spread through schools and day care centers.

The new strain that caused ear infections in the nine Rochester children where resistant to all antibiotics approved for children.

Some only recovered after treatment with a new, powerful antibiotic which has not yet been deemed safe for children.


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