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Multiple Tests Needed to Spot Infections in Newborns: Study

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Multiple tests are needed to detect bacterial infections in newborns with a low birth weight, a news study suggests.

The study authors looked at amniotic and umbilical cord blood samples from 44 premature infants who had low birth weights. Most of the infants had been diagnosed with early onset sepsis, which occurs within 72 hours of birth.

Sepsis is a life-threatening blood infection that can be caused by a number of types of bacteria.

For the new study, the researchers found that cultures commonly used to detect bacterial infections in newborns with low birth weights and early-onset sepsis failed to detect more than 20 types of bacteria. Some of those bacteria species were present in both the amniotic fluid and umbilical cord blood, the researchers said.

The study results point to the need for multiple tests -- such as DNA analysis -- to identify bacteria that may not be detected using standard culturing, said the team of researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine and Yale University School of Medicine.

Symptoms of early sepsis can vary, from apnea (pauses in breathing) to low body temperatures, and four of every 1,000 babies born in the United States develop the infections, the researchers said in a Case Western Reserve news release.

The typical treatment is to give the baby antibiotics for three days under a doctor's supervision.

But Dr. Vineet Bhandari, director of Yale's program in perinatal research, said broad use of antibiotics could increase antibiotic-resistant bacteria when the exact bacteria have not been identified and targeted.

"This research is important in finding the right bug to target for antibiotics," Bhandari said in the news release.

The study was published Feb. 20 in the journal PLoS One.

More information

The MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia has more about sepsis in newborns.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Case Western Reserve University, news release, Feb. 20, 2013

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