The majority of healthy children are able to fight minor infection with their body’s immune defenses. However, there are some factors that can compromise a child’s immune system, putting a child at a higher risk of severe infections. Being born too early or too small puts babies at high risk for getting serious infections at or around birth – and contribute to developing newborn sepsis. A child’s immune system may be weakened by malnutrition or undernourishment, or by pre-existing illnesses, such as HIV infection.
Our ability to treat serious infections requires prevention through immunization, good hygiene and sanitation, equitable access and appropriate use of existing and new antimicrobial medicines. Children who live in low-resource settings face a greater risk of infection, due to poor sanitary conditions, the lack of resources for optimal hygiene practices and inadequate infection prevention. Vaccination against many previously fatal diseases has led to dramatic reductions in deaths due to infection, but most infectious diseases do not have effective vaccinations available, particularly gram-negative bacteria. Children in low-resource countries, generally, do not have access to well-functioning, adequately resourced and affordable health services that can treat such infection as they arise.
Some of the most severe childhood diseases in low-resources countries – malaria, pneumonia, other respiratory infections and dysentery – can no longer be easily cured with the existing antibiotics or medicines. In these countries, effective and accessible antibiotics are crucial for saving the lives of children who have those diseases.
Further complicating this situation is the limited amount of research and data available on how to prevent the impact of antimicrobial resistance on children. It is crucial that children are not left behind in the global antimicrobial resistance response, which must explicitly address the specific needs and vulnerabilities of children.