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The research published in CMAJ --Canadian Medical Association Journal - may help in the diagnosis of bone and joint bacterial infections in children that can have devastating effects on long-term mobility and can even cause death. 

The study demonstrated that the bacterium Kingella kingae is by far the most common pathogen for bone or joint infection in children.

"Based on this study, we plan to change the way we investigate children at risk of bone/joint infection, because the identification of K. kingae in the throat of a child with a suspected bone infection will point towards K. kingae as the culprit," said Jocelyn Gravel from University of Montreal in Canada.

"This may decrease the number of other tests performed to identify the pathogen," Gravel said.

Previously, most infections were thought to be caused by Staphylococcus, Streptococcus and Haemophilus influenzae type b bacteria and were treated with long-term antibiotics and/or surgery. 

Over the past few years, new highly sensitive techniques have allowed more precise identification of the bacteria responsible for these infections.

The study, between two pediatric centres in Canada and Switzerland, included 77 children aged 6 months to 4 years of age admitted for suspected bone or joint infection and 286 controls. 

Of the suspected infections, 65 children had confirmed bone or joint infection.

"Using improved diagnostic methods, our study found that the vast majority of children younger than 4 years old suffering from a bone or joint infection were infected by Kingella kingae bacteria," Gravel said.

"More importantly, we discovered that 70 percent of children who had a bone/joint infection carried these bacteria in their throats, while it is uncommon in uninfected children (only six percent)," Gravel said. 

- IANS