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Antibiotics Help Children Fight Malnutrition: Study

Update Date: Jan 31, 2013 08:09 AM EST

A new study has found that treating malnourished children with antibiotics along with a peanut-based food is better than just the therapeutic food.

The study was based on data from more than 2,500 children in Malawi, in sub-Saharan Africa, who were suffering from malnourishment.

"The findings are remarkable. Based on previous research, we didn't think there would be much benefit from antibiotics. We did not at all expect to see a drop in the death rate - but there was, and it is significant," said Indi Trehan, M.D., lead author of the research.

All the children in the study were given therapeutic peanut-based food along with a pill that was either a placebo or an antibiotic - either amoxicillin or cefdinir. The food was given for an average of 30 days, while the antibiotics were given for seven days.

Study results showed that children who received antibiotics had a better chance of survival than children who got the placebo along with the food supplement. More than 80 percent of the malnourished children enrolled in the study recovered from malnourishment.

Researchers found that rate of death dropped by as much as 44 percent in children who were on cefdinir, while the drop was about 36 percent in kids treated with amoxicillin, compared with children who were on placebo or dummy drugs.

Antibiotics- a game changer                                                                                                            

Every hour of every day, about 300 children die due to malnutrition, says Save the Children. In America, at least 16 million kids aren't sure where the next meal will come from. Researchers say that adding antibiotics to food aimed at fighting malnutrition can be a real game changer.

"The addition of antibiotics has a profound impact that we hope will change how these children are treated worldwide. This trial provided very solid, very objective, top-of-the-line scientific evidence to answer the question of whether antibiotics should be added to severely malnourished children's treatment regimen. The answer is yes. This is a game-changer. This will save more lives," said Mark Manary, M.D., senior author of the study, according to a news release.

The study was conducted by researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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