Study investigates growing rate of child skin infections

Hospital admission rates for skin infection in young children in New Zealand are higher than in other developed countries and have steadily increased over the past 20 years, a study says.

A study of two bacteria most commonly responsible for rheumatic fever and skin infections - Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes - by a group of researchers from Auckland University was this week published in the New Zealand Medical Journal.

Swabs were taken from 124 pre-school children to identify those with the bacteria living on their skin, said Dr Cameron Grant, one of the study authors and a paediatrician at Starship Children's Hospital.

More than half of the children had one of the bacteria, while 16 percent had the other - rates not dissimilar to studies of school children in other countries.

"It isn't as simple as saying, 'New Zealand children are more of a coloniser for these bugs and that is why we have higher rates of hospital infection' - it's clearly more complicated than that," Grant said.

High rates of rheumatic fever have persisted for the past 60 to 70 years in New Zealand but have virtually disappeared in Britain and the United States.

However, understanding the cause of the diseases here has been limited, with prevention strategies largely ineffective.

While some bacteria could be treated with antibiotics, often they returned and others remained resistant to medication.

"These are two bacteria that are big issues for New Zealand. One way to understand it better is to understand the relationships that form over time between bacteria and people," Grant said.

Future study of the cohort was planned to investigate why some children with the bacteria develop rheumatic fever and some do not.

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 - The Dominion Post

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