Background: Sepsis is a leading cause of neonatal mortality in low-resource settings. As facility-based births become more common, the proportion of neonatal deaths due to hospital-onset sepsis has increased.
Methods: We conducted a prospective cohort study in a neonatal intensive care unit in Zambia where we implemented a multifaceted infection prevention and control (IPC) bundle consisting of IPC training, text message reminders, alcohol hand rub, enhanced environmental cleaning, and weekly bathing of babies ≥1.5 kg with 2% chlorhexidine gluconate. Hospital-associated sepsis, bloodstream infection (BSI), and mortality (>3 days after admission) outcome data were collected for 6 months prior to and 11 months after bundle implementation.
Results: Most enrolled neonates had a birth weight ≥1.5 kg (2131/2669 [79.8%]). Hospital-associated mortality was lower during the intervention than baseline period (18.0% vs 23.6%, respectively). Total mortality was lower in the intervention than prior periods. Half of enrolled neonates (50.4%) had suspected sepsis; 40.8% of cultures were positive. Most positive blood cultures yielded a pathogen (409/549 [74.5%]), predominantly Klebsiella pneumoniae (289/409 [70.1%]). The monthly rate and incidence density rate of suspected sepsis were lower in the intervention period for all birth weight categories, except babies weighing <1.0 kg. The rate of BSI with pathogen was also lower in the intervention than baseline period.
Conclusions: A simple IPC bundle can reduce sepsis and death in neonates hospitalized in high-risk, low-resource settings. Further research is needed to validate these findings in similar settings and to identify optimal implementation strategies for improvement and sustainability.
Clinical trials registration: NCT02386592.
Keywords: Klebsiella pneumoniae; Zambia; chlorhexidine; infection prevention; neonatal sepsis.
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