As many as 42.5 per cent of infected children have been colonized by drug-resistant strains, the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in Toronto, Canada, was told.
The findings came from a study of three families infected with the H. pylori bacterium, the organism thought to cause most cases of peptic ulcer.
Researchers from the School of Medicine, Niigata University, Japan, said the emergence of drug-resistant strains was probably because the antibiotic was frequently used to treat respiratory infections and chronic sinusitis.
They were unable to identify any drug-resistant strains among adults in the same families. And among unrelated adults, they found an 11.1 per cent rate of drug resistance among H. pylori strains.
Researcher Ikue Taneike said: "In Japan, clarithromycin has been used to treat children with respiratory infections, enterocolitis, and chronic sinusitis.
"It is possible that during such treatment, H. pylori colonizing the stomach of children can gain resistance to clarithromycin.
"The explosive emergence of clarithromycin-resistant H. pylori in Japanese children will make future treatment - eradication of H. pylori - very difficult."
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