COLUMBIA, Mo. – Christina Fuhrman is still haunted by the memory of her toddler Pearl struggling against a superbug infection.

"She could've gone septic fast," she said.

Pearl was fighting Clostridium difficile, a type of antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as a superbug. A growing body of research shows that overuse and misuse of antibiotics in children's hospitals helps fuel these dangerous bacteria.

A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases found 1 in 4 children given antibiotics in U.S. children's hospitals are prescribed the drugs inappropriately.

It's a long-standing problem, said Dr. Mark Schleiss, a pediatrics professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School, and the pandemic "has thrown a little bit of gas on the fire."

Fewer parents are taking their children to doctors' offices during the pandemic, but antibiotics are still prescribe in telemedicine visits. And research shows that many children hospitalized with COVID-19 between late May and late September were given antibiotics if symptoms also pointed to an additional bacterial infection, Schleiss said.

Antibiotics, which don't work on viruses, would be used until tests rule out bacteria.