Neonatal Infections

Newborns – especially those born prematurely and of low birth weight – can easily become infected with harmful pathogens encountered before, during and after birth. These infections account for nearly 30% of total newborn deaths globally.

To address this, MCSP infection and newborn sepsis management stresses strategies to reduce the opportunity for infection through improved intrapartum practices. This includes handwashing by birth attendants, disinfection and sterilization of equipment, minimization of vaginal examinations, and prompt diagnosis and treatment of prolonged labor. Infection prevention also warrants early and exclusive breastfeeding, clean cord care (including umbilical applications of chlorhexidine), improved maternal health and nutrition, maternal and neonatal immunizations, and antibiotic prophylaxis.

Diagnosis of neonatal infection has remained a challenge because sick newborns often present with non-specific signs and symptoms, and blood cultures. Where tests are available, they are positive in only 5-10% of suspected sepsis cases. Therefore, when there is suspected serious infection, the practice is to treat newborns presumptively with antibiotics.