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Cutting antibiotic use in children reduces infection with resistant bacteria by giving susceptible strains a survival boost, a new study reports.

The population-based study is the first of its kind to demonstrate that reducing antibiotic exposure allows susceptible strains of bacteria to recover a survival advantage.

Carriage of Streptococcus pneumoniae fell from 53 to 35 per cent in a region of France where doctors were advised against using antibiotics for presumed viral respiratory tract infection.

In a second region where doctors were advised to limit antibiotic prescriptions to five days, carriage fell from 55 to 44 per cent. But in a third region with no intervention to reduce antibiotic use, carriage remained largely unchanged.

The study, published in October's Clinical Infectious Diseases, found antibiotic use fell by 18 per cent in

the prescription reduction group, 17 per cent in the dose limitation group, but only 4 per cent in the control group.

Study leader Dr Didier Guillemot, a programme director at France's Institut Pasteur, said: 'Intensive educational strategies for optimising antibiotic use in the community can induce significant

and rapid reductions in

the rates of penicillin resistant S pneumoniae.'

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