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Child heart defects pose 'infection risk'

Bacterial infection of the lining and valves of the heart is more likely among children with particular defects of the organ, research suggests.

Children aged under three who are born with certain heart defects are also said to be at higher risk of infection, as are those who have recently had cardiac surgery (within previous six months).

The research by scientists in Canada used data gleaned from the cases of 47,518 children who had infective endocarditis between 1988 and 2010.

The average rate of infection risk by age 18 among those born with a heart defect was 6.1 cases per 1,000, although this differed considerably depending on the type of defect.

But compared with those who have atrial septal defect, which typically comes with a low risk of infective endocarditis, the risk of bacterial infection was much higher among those with heart defects linked to cyanosis (bluish skin caused by a lack of oxygen in the blood), children with endocardial cushion defects and those with lesions on the left side.

The research team said their study did not look at any treatment for the infections and how effective they are. But, they said, the data offers key details for those who make health policy to work out who would benefit most from treatment to prevent the bacterial infections.

Medicine professor Dr Ariane Marelli, a senior researcher at McGill University in Montreal where the study was carried out, said: “Consistent with the current American Heart Association guidelines, we found that children with lesions associated with cyanosis at birth and those who had undergone cardiac surgery in the previous six months were at significantly elevated risk of developing infective endocarditis.

“However, two patient groups, children with endocardial cushion defects and those with left-sided lesions, were also found to be at risk.”

The findings appear in the latest edition of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

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