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Neonatal bacterial sepsis in a neonatal intensive care unit: a 5 year analysis.

OBJECTIVE: To study the pattern of neonatal sepsis in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) during a 5 year period and assess the relationship between maternal risk factors and early onset sepsis (EOS).

METHODOLOGY: The study reported here was a retrospective analysis of 209 episodes of septicaemia and 5 episodes of bacterial meningitis in 198 newborn infants, 22 of whom died. Eighty-one infants had EOS (< or = 72 h) and 117 infants had late onset sepsis (LOS > 72 h). All infants had clinical evidence of sepsis, a computerized haematological score for sepsis of 4 or greater, and either treatment with antibiotics for 7 days or more or had earlier death due to sepsis. The organisms causing neonatal sepsis were analyzed according to the day of onset, gestational age, birthweight and year of infection.

RESULTS: Sepsis occurred in 5.6 per 1000 live births and 3.8% of NICU admissions. There were 81 episodes of EOS and 128 of LOS. Coagulase negative staphylococci (CONS) 38.8%, group B Streptococcus (GBS) 20.1% and Gram-negative bacilli (GNB) 20.1% were the common causes of sepsis; and GBS (50.6%) and CONS (60.9%) were the most common organisms in EOS and LOS, respectively. The mean gestational age and birthweight were higher in babies with EOS than compared with LOS. The higher likelihood of probable rather than definite infection in infants with EOS was related to more mothers in the EOS group receiving intrapartum antibiotics. GNB infection was more common in their babies.

CONCLUSIONS: GBS and CONS were the most common causes of EOS and LOS, respectively. The use of maternal intrapartum antibiotics interferes with neonatal blood culture results. Because blood cultures are not always positive in neonatal septicaemia, a combination of clinical, haematological and other microbiological evidence should be used when diagnosing neonatal septicaemia.

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