Introduction: Infections are a major contributor to newborn deaths in developing countries. Majority of these deaths occur at home without coming to medical attention. The Millennium Development Goal for child survival cannot be achieved without substantial reductions in infection-specific neonatal mortality. We describe the burden of neonatal infections in developing countries and discuss the need for community-based management approaches to improve survival from neonatal infections in these countries.
Methods: We reviewed community-based studies published since 1990 from developing countries to estimate the rates of neonatal and young infant infections and infection-specific neonatal mortality.
Results: Thirty-two studies reviewed suggest that infections may be responsible for 8% to 80% of all neonatal deaths and as many as 42% of deaths in the first week of life. Eleven reports provided data on incidence of infections in neonates and infants up to 60 days of life. Rates of neonatal sepsis were as high as 170/1000 live births (clinically diagnosed) and 5.5/1000 live births (blood culture-confirmed).
Conclusions: Considerable heterogeneity exists among included studies, and more accurate data and standardized methodologies are required. However, data indicate that a significant proportion of neonatal deaths in developing countries are due to infections. Current recommendations of hospitalization and parenteral therapy for managing neonatal infections are inadequately followed in developing countries. Approaches for detecting and managing serious infections within the community, at home or first-level health facilities, may be more effective options in settings where delays and reluctance to seek care, health system inefficiencies, socioeconomic and cultural, as well as logistic constraints exist.