Pathogens Associated With Sepsis in Newborns and Young Infants in Developing Countries

Document Type



Paediatrics and Child Health


Introduction: Knowledge of pathogens causing infections in young infants (up to 90 days of life) is essential for devising community-based management strategies. Most etiological data from developing countries are hospital-based and may have little relevance to communities in which most babies are born at home.
Methods: We searched the literature for studies from developing countries reporting etiology of community-acquired infections (sepsis, pneumonia, meningitis) published since 1980. Hospital-based studies reporting early onset sepsis, sepsis among babies admitted from, or born at home were included.
Results: Of 63 studies, 13 focused on community-acquired infections, but limited data were available from home-born neonates. In the first week of life (3209 isolates), Klebsiella species (25%), Escherichia coli (15%), and Staphylococcus aureus (18%) were major pathogens. Group B streptococci (GBS) were relatively uncommon (7%), although regional differences existed. After the first week of life (835 isolates), S. aureus (14%), GBS (12%), Streptococcus pneumoniae (12%), and nontyphoidal Salmonella species (13%) were most frequent. S. pneumoniae (27%) was most common in the postneonatal period (among 141 isolates). Gram-negatives predominated (77%) among home-delivered babies (among 170 isolates).
Conclusions: Limited information is available on etiology of serious bacterial infections in community settings. Hospital-based studies suggest that most infections in the first week of life are due to Gram-negative pathogens, and many may be environmentally rather than maternally-acquired, owing to unhygienic delivery practices. Such practices may also explain the predominance of Gram-negative infections among home-born infants, although data from home settings are limited. These findings have implications for developing prevention and management strategies in communities and hospitals.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal