Objective.

To track antibiotic susceptibility of Streptococcus pneumoniae isolates obtained from children with systemic infections and determine outcome of treatment.

Design.

A 3-year (September 1993 through August 1996) prospective surveillance study of all invasive pneumococcal infections in children.

Patients.

Infants and children cared for at eight children's hospitals in the United States with culture-proven systemic pneumococcal infection.

Results.

One thousand two hundred ninety-one episodes of systemic pneumococcal infection were identified in 1255 children. An underlying illness was present in the children for 27% of the episodes. The proportion of isolates that were nonsusceptible to penicillin or ceftriaxone increased annually and nearly doubled throughout the 3-year period; for the last year the percentages of isolates nonsusceptible to penicillin and ceftriaxone were 21% and 9.3%, respectively. There was no difference in mortality between patients with penicillin-susceptible or nonsusceptible isolates. Only 1 of 742 patients with bacteremia had a repeat blood culture that was positive >1 day after therapy was started. All 24 normal children with bacteremia attributable to isolates resistant to penicillin had resolution of their infection; the most common treatment regimen was a single dose of ceftriaxone followed by an oral antibiotic.

Conclusions.

The percentage of pneumococcal isolates nonsusceptible to penicillin and ceftriaxone increased yearly among strains recovered from children with systemic infection. Because empiric antibiotic therapy already has changed for suspected pneumococcal infections, antibiotic resistance has not been associated with increased mortality. Careful monitoring of antibiotic susceptibility and outcome of therapy is necessary to continually reassess current recommendations for treatment.

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