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Indigenous children risk of life-threatening golden staph infection

Photo: Golden staph threatening indigenous kids
The number of indigenous children who die in intensive care from a severe infection is twice that of non-indigenous children.

Indigenous children in Australia are twice as likely to die from severe infections like pneumonia and sepsis.

They are also seven times more likely to get a life-threatening golden staph infection, according to a University of Queensland study highlighting the health inequalities between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

Research published in the Medical Journal of Australia shows intensive care unit admission rates for life-threatening infections in indigenous children are several times higher than those of non-indigenous children.

And twice as many indigenous children per population die from severe infections despite life support.
Of the more than 82,000 children aged 16 or under admitted to an ICU ward during 2002-2013, 4864 were indigenous.

Sepsis and pneumonia were the most common reason for admission of indigenous children, accounting for 23 per cent of non-elective admissions.

The number of ICU deaths caused by these life-threatening infections was more than twice as high for indigenous as for non-indigenous children, 2.67 per 100,000 per year compared to 1.04 per 100 000 per year respectively.

Staphylococcus aureus, better known as golden staph, was the leading pathogen identified in children with sepsis or septic shock, and indigenous children were more than seven times more likely to suffer from such a life-threatening infection caused by this bacteria.

Despite campaigns to improve childhood survival of sepsis, indigenous children were three times more likely to be admitted to ICU for severe infections, said lead researcher associate
professor Luregn Schlapbach from the Lady Cilento Children's Hospital and the University of Queensland's Mater Research Institute.

"Further research is needed to define risk factors and to develop and assess appropriately targeted interventions," she said.

With a staph vaccine unlikely in the near future, efforts should focus on reducing transmission of the bacteria in order to save the lives of vulnerable indigenous kids, experts say.

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