Document Type



Paediatrics and Child Health


Children in low-resource settings carry enteric pathogens asymptomatically and are frequently treated with antibiotics, resulting in opportunities for pathogens to be exposed to antibiotics when not the target of treatment (i.e., bystander exposure). We quantified the frequency of bystander antibiotic exposures for enteric pathogens and estimated associations with resistance among children in eight low-resource settings. We analyzed 15,697 antibiotic courses from 1,715 children aged 0 to 2 y from the MAL-ED birth cohort. We calculated the incidence of bystander exposures and attributed exposures to respiratory and diarrheal illnesses. We associated bystander exposure with phenotypic susceptibility of E. coli isolates in the 30 d following exposure and at the level of the study site. There were 744.1 subclinical pathogen exposures to antibiotics per 100 child-years. Enteroaggregative Escherichia coli was the most frequently exposed pathogen, with 229.6 exposures per 100 child-years. Almost all antibiotic exposures for Campylobacter (98.8%), enterotoxigenic E. coli (95.6%), and typical enteropathogenic E. coli (99.4%), and the majority for Shigella (77.6%), occurred when the pathogens were not the target of treatment. Respiratory infections accounted for half (49.9%) and diarrheal illnesses accounted for one-fourth (24.6%) of subclinical enteric bacteria exposures to antibiotics. Bystander exposure of E. coli to class-specific antibiotics was associated with the prevalence of phenotypic resistance at the community level. Antimicrobial stewardship and illness-prevention interventions among children in low-resource settings would have a large ancillary benefit of reducing bystander selection that may contribute to antimicrobial resistance.


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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America