The introduction of antibiotics marked a major step forward against disease, but roughly a half century after their appearance, signs exist that these drugs could be losing ground.

Ironically, it's antibiotic use, or what experts describe as overuse, that might be diminishing their effectiveness.

Increasingly, multidrug-resistant pathogenic strains are appearing in children, challenging physicians' abilities to conquer illnesses. Of particular interest to pediatricians is pneumococcus, a frequent cause of otitis media. Resistant strains of this pathogen began to pose a problem during the last three to four years, experts say. In addition to causing otitis media, pneumoccocus can lead to bacteremia, pneumonia or meningitis.

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