• Journal Article

Early onset neonatal sepsis: The burden of group B streptococcal and E. coli disease continues


Stoll, B. J., Hansen, N., Sanchez, P. J., Faix, R. G., Poindexter, B. B., Van Meurs, K. P., ... Higgins, R. D. (2011). Early onset neonatal sepsis: The burden of group B streptococcal and E. coli disease continues. Pediatrics, 127(5), 817-826. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2010-2217


Background Guidelines for prevention of group B streptococcal (GBS) infection have successfully reduced early onset (EO) GBS disease. Study results suggest that Escherichia coli is an important EO pathogen.

Objective To determine EO infection rates, pathogens, morbidity, and mortality in a national network of neonatal centers.

Methods Infants with EO infection were identified by prospective surveillance at Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Neonatal Network centers. Infection was defined by positive culture results for blood and cerebrospinal fluid obtained from infants aged 72 hours plus treatment with antibiotic therapy for 5 days. Mother and infant characteristics, treatments, and outcomes were studied. Numbers of cases and total live births (LBs) were used to calculate incidence.

Results Among 396 586 LBs (2006–2009), 389 infants developed EO infection (0.98 cases per 1000 LBs). Infection rates increased with decreasing birth weight. GBS (43%, 0.41 per 1000 LBs) and E coli (29%, 0.28 per 1000 LBs) were most frequently isolated. Most infants with GBS were term (73%); 81% with E coli were preterm. Mothers of 67% of infected term and 58% of infected preterm infants were screened for GBS, and results were positive for 25% of those mothers. Only 76% of mothers with GBS colonization received intrapartum chemoprophylaxis. Although 77% of infected infants required intensive care, 20% of term infants were treated in the normal newborn nursery. Sixteen percent of infected infants died, most commonly with E coli infection (33%).

Conclusion In the era of intrapartum chemoprophylaxis to reduce GBS, rates of EO infection have declined but reflect a continued burden of disease. GBS remains the most frequent pathogen in term infants, and E coli the most significant pathogen in preterm infants. Missed opportunities for GBS prevention continue. Prevention of E coli sepsis, especially among preterm infants, remains a challenge.