Doctors are seeing a surge in young patients being admitted to hospitals with “superbugs,” or antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

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There’s been a seven-fold increase in “superbug” cases from 2007 to 2015, resulting in 20 percent longer hospital stays for children.

“We know that the more we use antibiotics, the more of the bacteria become antibiotic-resistant,” says Sharon Meropol, MD, PhD, Department of Pediatrics at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. “This makes these bacteria really hard to treat, especially in children because there’s fewer antibiotics available proven safe in children.”

The study is the first to look at admissions to children’s hospitals because of the antibiotic-resistant bug Enterobacteriaceae.

Researchers looked at data from 48 children’s hospitals. That data has been published in the Journal of the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society.

Dr. Meropol is warning about the overuse of current antibiotics. She says 80 percent of antibiotics are used to keep farm animals healthy, which contributes to antibiotic-resistant bugs. She also says doctors are over-prescribing antibiotics for viruses, with at least a quarter of children’s antibiotic prescriptions given for viral infections that won’t respond to antibiotics.

“We should be more and more increasingly careful about how we use antibiotics and only use them when we really feel confident we’re treating a bacterial infection that needs antibiotics,” says Dr. Meropol.

In addition to longer hospital stays, these superbugs are associated with an increased risk of death.

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