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NICU Antibiotic Resistance and Infection Control

NICU Antibiotic Resistance and Infection Control


As antibiotic resistance becomes more common, a question arises: How can neonatal units fight off these persistent infections? The healthcare community can’t estimate how many at-risk infants die each year of antibiotic-resistant infections because the research is just not there, explains Mike Sharland, a professor from London’s St. George’s University. The current studies focus more on HIV and malaria because that is where most of the disease burden currently lies. That may all change as the rate of resistance for certain pathogens rises.

Investing More in Antibiotic Resistance Studies

Sharland is advocating for more research on the impact of antibiotic resistance in babies. Many current researchers focus on diseases that may have an impact at some time in the future like Ebola or Zika virus while ignoring the current threat. Babies are getting antiquated antibiotics used 50 years ago. The new drugs designed to combat resistant strains are not being studied in relation to neonatal care.

For every English pound invested in neonatal infection research, almost half goes to HIV and malaria. The greatest risk right now is resistant strains of bacteria. Neonates are especially susceptible to bacterial infections. Prolonged use of antibiotics has increased the prevalence of hospital-acquired resistant infections, as well, increasing the risk even further. As more strains become resistant to standard antimicrobial therapies, more babies will die without new treatment options.

Shifting the Focus to Neonatal Care

Sharland is calling for future trials to focus on neonatal care to improve the death outcomes in newborns. They need access to the best drug choices, proper dosing information for those drugs and duration data to fight the highly resistant strains. Funding agents and researchers need to prioritize their studies to balance the scales and include infants.

It will take a joint effort to strengthen neonatal infection research. Funding opportunities need to be specific about this course of study. Simply providing funds for antibiotic development and resistance research is not enough. The funds must be earmarked for neonatal research to ensure studies are done that can benefit babies, as well as adults.

Without proper research, the world will never really know how many babies die from a lack of effective antibiotic treatments. This threat is not going away. In fact, it will probably continue to escalate, especially given the fact that the U.S. has identified the first completely antibiotic resistant bacteria within their borders. It is essential to push forward measures that will reduce infant deaths and disability from neonatal infections by studying how drugs affect babies.

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