From the Journals

Experts advise risk stratification for newborn early-onset sepsis



Early-onset sepsis requires different management strategies in preterm and term neonates, according to a pair of clinical reports published in Pediatrics.

Premature baby herjua/Thinkstock

Early-onset sepsis usually begins during labor in term infants, but in preterm infants, “the pathogenesis of preterm EOS likely begins before the onset of labor in many cases of preterm labor and/or PROM [premature rupture of membranes],” wrote Karen M. Puopolo, MD, of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and her colleagues.

In the report on preterm infants, the researchers noted that EOS risk assessment using gestational age can be useful for term infants, but not for preterm infants. Instead, they advised categorizing preterm infants as low risk based on birth circumstances. Low-risk preterm infants were defined as those born by cesarean delivery because of maternal noninfectious illness or placental insufficiency in the absence of labor, attempts to induce labor, or rupture of membranes before delivery. Consider the risk/benefit balance of performing an EOS laboratory evaluation and empirical antibiotics, depending on the neonate’s clinical condition, the researchers said.

Preterm infants at high risk for EOS are those born preterm because of maternal cervical incompetence, preterm labor, premature rupture of membranes, clinical concerns for intra-amniotic infection, or acute onset of “unexplained nonreassuring fetal status,” Dr. Puopolo and her associates said. These infants should be managed with a blood culture and empirical antibiotics.

“The combination of ampicillin and gentamicin is the most appropriate empirical antibiotic regimen for infants at risk for EOS,” they noted. “Empirical administration of additional broad-spectrum antibiotics may be indicated in preterm infants who are severely ill and at a high risk for EOS, particularly after prolonged antepartum maternal antibiotic treatment,” they said. Antibiotics should be discontinued by 36-48 hours of incubation unless the infant shows signs of site-specific infection.

In the second report, again with Dr. Puopolo as the primary author, management of EOS was addressed for full-term infants, defined as those born at 35 weeks’ gestation or later.

Infants born at 35 weeks’ gestation or later can be stratified for EOS risk based on algorithms for intrapartum risk factors as well as risk assessments based on these risk factors and infant examinations, the researchers said.

There are a variety of acceptable approaches to risk stratification: categorical algorithms with threshold values for intrapartum risk factors; multivariate risk assessment based on both intrapartum risk factors (such as maternal chorioamnionitis, group B streptococcus colonization, adequacy of intrapartum antibiotic prophylaxis, and duration of ROM); and serial infant examination to detect clinical signs of illness after birth, Dr. Puopolo and her associates wrote.

They recommended that birth centers choose which type of EOS risk assessment to use and tailor it to their own situation. Once local guidelines are developed, ongoing surveillance is suggested.

The same recommendations apply to term infants as preterm infants regarding first-choice use of ampicillin and gentamicin when necessary, to be discontinued when blood cultures are sterile at 36-48 hours of incubation in the absence of site-specific infection, they said.

The reports do “not indicate an exclusive course of treatment or serve as a standard of medical care. Variations, taking into account individual circumstances, may be appropriate,” Dr. Puopolo and her associates noted.

The researchers had no financial conflicts to disclose, and there was no external funding.

SOURCE: Puopolo KM et al. Pediatrics. 2018 Nov. doi: 10.1542/peds.2018-2896; Puopolo KM et al. Pediatrics. 2018 Nov. doi: 10.1542/peds.2018-2894.

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