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Faulty gene link to antibiotic risk

5th February 2009

A new study has suggested that up to one in 500 children carry a gene variation that means they are at risk of being damaged by an antibiotic commonly used in hospitals.

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Aminoglycosides are often used to target serious infections but doctors have been aware for some time that there is a risk and levels of the drug are monitored carefully.

While they are an effective way of treating bacterial infections, there is a risk that they can permanently harm hearing or kidneys in a small number of children.

In the latest study by the Institute of Child Health in London and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the gene fault was found in 18 out of 9,371 children tested.

Researchers say the discovery means that it should be possible to screen out at risk children.

With the side-effect linked to a gene variation, the ICH team were keen to establish how realistic it was to test children about to be given aminoglycosides.

Dr Maria Bitner-Glindzicz, one of the lead authors, said: "These antibiotics are widely used on very sick children. We believe that it will be cost effective to genetically screen groups of patients who will almost certainly receive aminoglycoside antibiotics, to see if they carry the mutation, before administering the antibiotics.

"This will allow an alternative antibiotic to be given to anyone who has the mutation."

John Shanley, chief executive of research charity Sparks, said the findings were a major discovery with "very important implications.”

 

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