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Front Line Treatments for Neonatal Infections

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Neonatal Infections

While many newborn babies come into the world healthy and strong, some are less fortunate and are born with infections. These problems develop in approximately 8 to 9 out of 1,000 live births weighing between 1,000 to 2,000 grams. Neonatal infections are acquired in a variety of ways. They may be contracted in the utero through the placenta during the period before birth, during the actual delivery through the birth canal, or from any external environmental sources postpartum. Newborns, or neonates, are extra vulnerable in this state and must be kept under close observation in a neonatal intensive care unit. Some of the common symptoms of neonatal infections include a lack of movement, non-stop crying, an elevated temperature, breathing difficulties, problems feeding, irritability, and unusual rashes or patches of color on the skin. These infections must be treated as soon as a problem is detected. Any symptoms should be observed immediately so that a diagnosis can be made and therapy can start quickly. There are certain treatments available to help combat several neonatal infections.


Meningitis is an inflammatory condition that affects the neural and spinal cord membranes. This condition is caused by several pathogens, such as E. coli, Listeria, and Group B streptococcus. The symptoms of neonatal meningitis are less specific than in adult meningitis. The more obvious signs are diarrhea, vomiting, jaundice, and swollen fontanels. The treatment for neonatal meningitis depends on the pathogen that caused it. Fluids and antimicrobial medications help combat the pathogen. Serious meningitis cases can be treated with anticonvulsants. The neonate brain should also be closely monitored to detect any cerebral abscesses, as well as for any water in the brain, referred to as hydrocephalus. Any perceived signs of these should be treated immediately.


Neonatal pneumonia is acquired during the delivery, or intrapartum. There are different bacteria or viruses that could cause pneumonia, including Staphylococcus aureus, E. coli, Pseudomonas, Bacillus, Serratia, and Citrobacter. Difficulty breathing is the most telling symptom of pneumonia. A diagnosis can be through a chest x-ray or through examination of blood cultures. Neonatal pneumonia is treated with antimicrobial medication. The most commonly used medications are vancomycin and cefotaxime. Exposure of the neonate to chlamydial bacteria intrapartum can lead to chlamydial pneumonia. This form of pneumonia is treated with erythromycin and azithromycin.


Sepsis is a very serious infection that spreads throughout the body’s bloodstream and tissues. It may be acquired in the utero from maternal sepsis via amniotic fluid that has been infected, or postpartum upon exposure to certain harmful microorganisms in the environment. The immediate symptoms of sepsis in newborn babies include fever, hypothermia, jaundice, skin rashes, unstable blood sugar, lethargy, apnea, and respiratory problems. Antibiotics should be administered immediately to treat neonatal sepsis. Amoxicillin and gentamicin should be administered for the first five days after a sepsis diagnosis is made. After this initial period, neonates may be given flucloxacillin and amikacin, which may be used in conjunction with amoxicillin for certain kinds of pathogens.


Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, manifests as swelling and redness in the eyes and may result in discharge. A close analysis of this discharge can help doctors diagnose neonatal conjunctivitis. Aside from bacterial and viral infection, conjunctivitis may also be caused by inflammation related to chemicals. Conjunctivitis is treated with either topical, systemic, or a combined form of antimicrobial therapy. Erythromycin and azithromycin are the medications of choice for systemic treatment. Other medications include ceftriaxone, acyclovir, and cefotaxime. Erythromycin is an effective form of topical treatment. Other such ointments include bacitracin, tetracycline, trifluridine, and certain kinds of eye drops.