London, UK: Some newborn babies who have contracted an infection during birth are being treated too late, while others are being given antibiotics even though they do not need them, according to new guidance for the NHS.
One in four babies with a bacterial infection in the early hours of life will die from it even when they are given antibiotics, says the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), which has put forward a series of recommendations for preventing the deaths and damage caused by infections.
Group B streptococcus (GBS) and other infections such as E coli, Pseudomonas and Klebsiella, can be carried unwittingly by the mother in her genital tract. Around half of all women and men carry GBS, which is harmless most of the time.
But if newborn babies are infected, it can kill or cause disability. It is also a major cause of stillbirths.
Campaigners have been calling for all pregnant women to be screened for the bacteria.
Nice says that much faster diagnosis and immediate treatment with antibiotics of newborn babies with suspected infections is needed. The babies should get the drugs within an hour of the decision to treat.
But while treatment of babies in need is too slow, too many babies who do not have an infection are being given antibiotics, says Nice. This is of concern because overuse of antibiotics undermines their efficacy, as bacteria evolve and develop resistance.
“Early onset neonatal infection can be very serious and, at present, there is much variation in how it is managed, with sometimes unnecessary delays in recognising and treating sick babies,” said Professor Mark Baker, director of the Centre for Clinical Practice at Nice.
“Many babies are receiving antibiotics needlessly, and consequently there is concern that the effectiveness of antibiotics is being reduced because of the development of resistance to them.”
Nice also recommends better identification of babies at risk of an infection at birth and antibiotics for mothers during labour if they are thought likely to carry the potentially harmful bacteria.
© Gulf NewsAug 2012