Year of Publication
Early-onset sepsis (EOS) remains a serious and often fatal illness among infants born preterm, particularly among newborn infants of the lowest gestational age. Currently, most preterm infants with very low birth weight are treated empirically with antibiotics for risk of EOS, often for prolonged periods, in the absence of a culture-confirmed infection. Retrospective studies have revealed that antibiotic exposures after birth are associated with multiple subsequent poor outcomes among preterm infants, making the risk/benefit balance of these antibiotic treatments uncertain. Gestational age is the strongest single predictor of EOS, and the majority of preterm births occur in the setting of other factors associated with risk of EOS, making it difficult to apply risk stratification strategies to preterm infants. Laboratory tests alone have a poor predictive value in preterm EOS. Delivery characteristics of extremely preterm infants present an opportunity to identify those with a lower risk of EOS and may inform decisions to initiate or extend antibiotic therapies. Our purpose for this clinical report is to provide a summary of the current epidemiology of preterm neonatal sepsis and provide guidance for the development of evidence-based approaches to sepsis risk assessment among preterm newborn infants.