Immunizing children may be a powerful tool in the effort to combat antimicrobial resistance globally, a recent study in Nature suggests. The new research found that pneumococcal conjugate and rotavirus vaccines prevent 23.8 million and 13.6 million illnesses, respectively, each year in children under 5 years old in low- and middle-income countries that would otherwise be treated with antibiotics. The study, using data from health and demographic studies of 78 countries, published April 29.

Children under 2 in high-income countries commonly receive pneumococcal conjugate and rotavirus vaccines, but coverage rates are lower in low- and middle-income countries because of their relatively high cost and lower access to health care. Achieving universal coverage targets for these vaccines could prevent an additional 40 million cases of antibiotic-treated illness, the researchers predicted. “The magnitude of the effect that can be achieved with this intervention is just staggering when it’s put together and considered in a global context," lead study author Joseph A. Lewnard, PhD, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Berkeley, told CIDRAP News.

The need to address antibiotic resistance remains urgent. An assessment of the status of new antibiotic development issued by the Pew Charitable Trusts on April 15 found that there are still too few drugs in the development pipeline to meet current and future patient needs.