Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Researchers at Kaiser Permanente have reduced the use of antibiotics in newborns by nearly 50 percent with the development of neonatal sepsis risk calculator.
Early-onset neonatal sepsis is a systemic bacterial infection that develops when normal bacteria from a mother's gastrointestinal or genital tract cause an infection in her baby. Sepsis is dangerous in newborns and can lead to meningitis or death.
In 2014, the incidence of early-onset sepsis fell to 0.8 per every 1,000 births due to routine Group B streptococcus screening and intrapartum antibiotics given to at-risk mothers. Even with those numbers, 15 percent of babies are evaluated for sepsis infection through blood culture, and 5 to 8 percent are given antibiotics while waiting for test results.
"It's often unsettling for new parents to have their newborn's blood drawn or have their babies taken to the neonatal intensive care unit shortly after birth for intravenous antibiotics," Dr. Michael Kuzniewicz, neonatologist and director of the Perinatal Research Unit at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research and lead author of the study, said in a press release. "We thought there must be a better way to decide which infants were at higher risk, and only evaluate and treat those infants."
A team from Kaiser Permanente collaborated with researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, San Francisco, to create a risk prediction model based on data from more than 600,000 babies and mothers.
The online sepsis risk calculator uses gestational age, time from membrane rupture, maternal temperature, GBS testing results and use of intrapartum antibiotics to assess the risk of early-onset sepsis.
The calculator reduced the incidence of blood cultures for infection evaluation by 66 percent and antibiotic use declined 48 percent.
"By dramatically reducing the use of antibiotics, the risk calculator allows mothers and babies to stay together in the days after birth," Dr. Allen Fischer, director of neonatology for Kaiser Permanente in Northern California and co-author of the study, said in a press release. "Instead of admission to the neonatal intensive care unit for intravenous treatment, the babies remain with their mothers, which improves bonding and the initiation of breastfeeding in the first days of life."
The study was published in JAMA Pediatrics.