Background: Respiratory tract infections among children are a common reason for health care provider visits and the primary reason for antimicrobial prescribing in this population. The increased prevalence of resistance among Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae pathogens poses a serious challenge in the successful treatment of respiratory tract infections caused by these pathogens.
Methods: This paper reviews worldwide trends in antimicrobial resistance among common respiratory tract pathogens, highlighting data obtained from the pediatric population where available.
Results: S. pneumoniae resistance to beta-lactams is mediated through alterations in the penicillin-binding proteins and macrolide resistance to acquisition of efflux or methylation genes. The mechanisms of resistance to the fluoroquinolones include target enzyme alterations via genetic mutations and transport out of the bacterial cell via an efflux pump. Beta-lactamase production is the primary mechanism of resistance to penicillins among H. influenzae isolates. Although S. pneumoniae with reduced susceptibility to penicillin was first documented > 30 years ago, resistance has increased at an alarming rate worldwide in the past decade. According to recent surveillance data, the worldwide prevalence of S. pneumoniae with reduced susceptibility to penicillin is 18.2%. Beta-lactamase production among H. influenzae ranges from approximately 4% in Russia to 26% in the United States and to 31% in France. The prevalence of beta-lactamase-negative, ampicillin-resistant H. influenzae remains very low (< 1%) worldwide, except in Japan, where the incidence is higher. In general, the highest rates of resistance are observed in isolates obtained from children, and risk factors for infection with a resistant pathogen include young age, the site of infection, day-care center attendance and recent antimicrobial use.
Conclusions: Increased prevalence of antimicrobial resistance among respiratory tract pathogens isolated from children and adults is evident worldwide. Treatment of infections caused by S. pneumoniae and H. influenzae with older agents or ineffective dosing regimens may not eradicate infections and may contribute to the spread of resistance. These observations confirm the need for appropriate antimicrobial use to halt or at least limit the spread of resistance.