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CHICAGO (AP) — Higher-dose, short-term use of antibiotics may help reduce the spread of drug-resistant bacteria that cause ear infections, pneumonia and meningitis, a government study of children suggests.

Streptococcus pneumoniae infections kill approximately 1 million children under age 5 worldwide each year. But resistant strains have become a growing problem blamed in part on the overuse of antibiotics.

The standard treatment is 10 days of penicillin-type antibiotics, but recent research has shown that higher doses used for just five days work just as well.

The new study found that this approach is also more effective at knocking out antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

This approach may represent “a low-cost, feasible intervention to limit spread of resistance,” the researchers aid.

The findings appear in Wednesday’s Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study, led by a researcher from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, involved 795 children ages 6 months to 5 years in the Dominican Republic. They were given amoxicillin in either high doses or standard ones.

A month after treatment, antibiotic-resistant bacteria were found in 24 percent of the high-dose youngsters, compared with 32 percent of the standard-dose children.

A vaccine for the bacteria received federal approval in 1999 and is recommended for all U.S. youngsters under age 2. But it was not widely available in the United States until this year, so it is too early to say how effective it has been, said Stephanie Schrag, who led the study.

The vaccine is not yet available in developing countries, where rates of pneumococcal disease are typically higher.

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