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For Immediate Release

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Scientists Find Antibiotic Resistance Rates in Pittsburgh are Twice the National Average

Researchers report that rates rose sharply at end of “sore throat season” in April and May

Pittsburgh has a rate of antibiotic resistance to Group A Streptococci (GAS) that is almost twice the national average and that has skyrocketed during the months of April and May, according to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh researchers.

GAS are bacteria that are the most common cause of “sore throat,” accounting for between 15 and 20 percent of all sore throats in children. In the Children’s study, bacterial samples taken from children in the Pittsburgh region during 2001 and 2002 were resistant to the commonly prescribed antibiotics (known as macrolides) azithromycin, erythromycin and clindamycin almost 10 percent of the time. Previous studies reported a national rate of antibiotic resistance of between 5 and 6 percent.

Results from the Children’s study are published in the February issue of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

“Macrolides are intended for use in patients with sore throat and other bacterial illnesses who are allergic to penicillin or amoxicillin. However, more and more often, these antibiotics are being inappropriately prescribed to patients with a viral illness or because they are easier to take,” said Michael Green, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Children’s. “The inappropriate use of antibiotics encourages bacteria to develop resistance, making the drugs ineffective when it is appropriate to use them.”

The Children’s study is the first to examine antibiotic resistance rates over an entire strep season – from September 2001 to May 2002 – rather than at one or two points in the season.

Specifically, 708 GAS samples were tested over that time. Over the entire nine-month study, 68 of the strep samples, or 9.6 percent, were macrolide resistant. Over the first seven months of the study, only 3.7 percent of the samples were resistant. But at the end of strep season, in April and May 2002, researchers found the rate of antibiotic resistance jumped to 35 percent.

“This is the first study to look at antibiotic resistance rates longitudinally over the course of a season. Not only did we find that Pittsburgh has a higher rate of resistance than the national average, but we found that the national average may be underestimated,” Dr. Green said. “The spike we saw in April and May likely is occurring throughout the country and means we may have underestimated how high.

Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-5016,
Melanie Finnigan, 412-692-5016,

Last Update
February 19, 2008
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Last Update
February 19, 2008