Babies born prematurely are surviving in increasing numbers. But many withstand complications of early birth only to suffer late-onset sepsis life-threatening bloodstream infections that strike after infants reach 72 hours of age.
While early-onset sepsis often is caused by pathogens acquired from the amniotic sac or birth canal, the causes of late-onset sepsis have been far less clear.
But now, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have discovered that preterm babies' guts harbor infectious microbes that can cause late-onset sepsis.
The research is published March 19 in Clinical Infectious Diseases.
"There is a tremendous emphasis in intensive-care units throughout the world on stopping infections related to the insertion of IVs, catheters or other tubes, but that leaves a sizable subset of people who get bloodstream infections from germs that don't necessarily reside on the skin," said senior author Phillip I. Tarr, MD, the Melvin E. Carnahan Professor of Pediatrics. "It's been suspected that these other infections come from the gut. This research proves that."
The researchers, in collaboration with scientists at Michigan State and the University of Minnesota, found three types of potentially harmful gut microbes in the bloodstreams of most babies in the study who developed late-onset sepsis: E. coli, group B strep and S. marcescens.
The findings suggest new strategies to detect and prevent severe bloodstream infections in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) and that such strategies include the gut as a target.
The findings also are relevant to other patient populations, said study co-author Barbara B. Warner, MD, a professor of pediatrics who treats patients at St. Louis Children's Hospital.
"Although our study was in preterm infants, its applicability is much more broad and may include people who are susceptible to blood
|Contact: Elizabethe Holland Durando|
Washington University School of Medicine