In an open prospective study performed in 2 neonatal units, infants with suspected neonatal sepsis (SNS) of unknown microbial cause were randomly allocated to receive treatment with either cefotaxime (CTX) or netilmicin plus penicillin (N + P). 236 patients were entered into the trial, of whom 222 were evaluable. The number of ‘definitely’ and ‘probably’ infected babies was similar in both groups. There was no difference in clinical outcome between patients in the 2 treatment groups and no side effects were recorded for either of the antibiotic regimens.
Antibiotic sensitivity testing of bacterial isolates from peripheral sites showed almost universal sensitivity of potential pathogens to both antibiotic regimens at the start of treatment in all infants. Thereafter, organisms resistant to CTX were isolated from patients in both treatment groups, possibly reflecting the antibiotic sensitivity profile of the colonising bacteria in both neonatal units.
The results of this study indicate that either CTX or N + P are suitable, in our units, for the ‘blind’ treatment of early SNS. In units where listerial infections are prevalent, specific cover should be added to CTX. For SNS developing after admission, the choice of antibiotics will depend upon the background antibiotic sensitivity profile of the colonising bacteria.
Cefotaxime Antibiotic Regimen Netilmicin Antibiotic Sensitivity Neonatal Unit
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