Purpose of review: The overwhelming majority of the world's annual 4 million neonatal deaths occur in developing countries. This review therefore briefly addresses the burden, aetiology, prevention and management of serious neonatal bacterial infections in low-income settings.
Recent findings: Bacterial infection is the biggest cause of neonatal admissions to hospitals, and probably the biggest cause of morbidity in the community, but its burden is unclear. The commonest serious infections involve bacteraemia, meningitis and respiratory infection, and case fatality rates may be as high as 45%. Key pathogens are Escherichia coli, Klebsiella species, Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes. The incidence of neonatal infections with group B streptococcus is highly variable, as is the spectrum of antimicrobial resistance.
Summary: Current areas of research include the rectification of micronutrient deficiencies, neonatal skin care, appropriate breastfeeding recommendations, cleansing of the birth canal, and simplified methods of diagnosis of infection. Operational activities include the control of neonatal tetanus, the diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, integrated strategies for improving pregnancy, childbirth and neonatal survival, community-based management of acute respiratory infections, and community-based management of neonatal sepsis.