Antibiotic therapy for severe infections in infants and children

Mayo Clin Proc. 1992 Jan;67(1):59-68. doi: 10.1016/s0025-6196(12)60280-8.


In infants and children, the absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion of drugs may differ considerably in comparison with these factors in adults; consequently, differences exist in therapeutic efficacy and toxicity of various antibiotic agents. Because of known toxicity, certain drugs--such as chloramphenicol in high doses, the sulfonamides, and tetracycline--should not be used in neonates. Antibiotic therapy should be modified in neonates because of biologic immaturity of organs important for the termination of drug action. Because of poor conjugation, inactivation, or excretion, the serum concentrations of many antibiotics may be higher and more prolonged in neonates than in older infants; thus, lower doses and longer intervals between administration may be necessary. In this article, we suggest dosages of antimicrobial agents for severe infections in children, older infants, and neonates. Included in the discussion are the cephalosporins, especially the third-generation cephalosporins that have assumed an important role in empiric treatment of bacterial meningitis in pediatric patients because of their ability to penetrate the central nervous system and their effectiveness against beta-lactamase-positive and negative strains of Haemophilus influenzae type b, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Neisseria meningitidis, and many gram-negative bacteria in the Enterobacteriaceae group. In patients with congenital or acquired immunodeficiencies, antifungal, antiviral, or anti-Pneumocystis agents are often added to the antimicrobial regimen for severe infections. We review the agents available for such treatment in children, the drugs used for childhood tuberculosis, and certain new antibiotics (aztreonam, ticarcillin-clavulanate, ciprofloxacin, and imipenem-cilastatin) that have proved useful in select cases but whose precise role in pediatric practice will necessitate additional clinical experience.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antitubercular Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bacterial Infections / drug therapy*
  • Cephalosporins / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host / drug effects
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infusions, Parenteral


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Antitubercular Agents
  • Cephalosporins