Objective: To determine the incidence of antimicrobial-resistant, nonpathogenic Escherichia coli among healthy children aged 6-72 months in Camiri town and a rural village, Javillo, in south-eastern Bolivia.
Method: A community-based survey: stool samples were obtained from 296 healthy children selected by modified cluster sampling in Camiri and all 25 eligible children in Javillo. E. coli isolates were tested for antimicrobial susceptibility according to the standard disc diffusion method. By a questionnaire survey of 12 pharmacies and by using simulated patients, we investigated the antimicrobial availability and the usage patterns in Camiri town.
Results: In Camiri, over 90%, and in Javillo over 70% of children carried E. coli resistant to ampicillin, trimethoprim-sulphamethoxazole (TMP/SMX) or tetracycline. Overall, 63% of children carried E. coli with multiple resistance to ampicillin, TMP/SMX, tetracycline and chloramphenicol. In the simulated patients study, antimicrobials were dispensed inappropriately for 92% of adults and 40% of children with watery diarrhoea, and were under-prescribed for males with urethral discharge (67%) or females with fever and dysuria (58%). The dose and/or duration of antimicrobials dispensed was almost always too low.
Conclusion: Our study showed a disturbingly high prevalence of carriage of nonpathogenic E. coli resistant to antimicrobials. The prevalence of resistance to ampicillin and TMP/SMX was higher than that previously reported in developing countries. The existence of a large reservoir of resistance genes in healthy individuals in developing countries represents a threat to the success of antimicrobial therapy throughout the world. Programmes to improve rational and effective drug use in developing countries are urgently needed.