One in five deaths in children in England and Wales is due to potentially preventable infections, a study suggests. Half of the 1,300 infection-related deaths in a two-year period were in children with other health problems. Health Protection Agency researchers said greater vigilance by doctors could significantly child mortality. Childhood vaccines have a key role in cutting unnecessary deaths, they said. The study, which analysed data from 2003 to 2005, is the first to look at the burden of deaths from specific infections in children Looking at death certificates in children aged 28 days to 14 years old, they found 20% of a total 6,987 deaths were related to an infection. Underlying health problems in children dying from infectious disease included prematurity, cerebral palsy and cancer. In deaths where a specific type of infection was recorded, 59% were bacterial, 31% viral and 8% fungal. One finding which particularly worried the researchers was a high rate of deaths from some intestinal infections in children with underlying medical problems, as these are infections which would not normally be a problem in healthy children but can often be resistant to treatment. Prevention As this is the first time such analysis has been done, the researchers had no data to compare the findings with. But they said the results backed a recent report on the care of critically ill children in the UK which called for better recognition of serious illness in children and more aggressive treatment. A study published last year warned that more needed to be done to prevent children with cancer dying from potentially preventable infections. Writing in the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, they said that adding in more vaccines to the routine childhood programme would be one way to cut the number of deaths. Influenza, hepatitis B, rotavirus, and chicken pox vaccines are among those that are currently available but not included in the schedule. Dr Shamez Ladhani, study leader and consultant in paediatric infectious disease, said ensuring good uptake of currently used vaccinations would also have an impact on deaths. "We have very good vaccination programmes in place - but we also need to make sure we are up to date with the latest vaccines out there." He added that doctors needed to be more vigilant for infection in seriously ill children to ensure they get treatment quickly enough. "We also need to look at surveillance and keep an eye out for antibiotic resistance." Dr David Vickers, a registrar at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: "We support the need to research whether new vaccinations should be added to the routine childhood immunisation programme. "Earlier recognition of ill children and more systematic management through the use of clinical protocols both offer the potential to reduce mortality from infection."