Late-Onset Sepsis Among Very Preterm Infants

Pediatrics. 2022 Dec 1;150(6):e2022058813. doi: 10.1542/peds.2022-058813.


Objectives: To determine the epidemiology, microbiology, and associated outcomes of late-onset sepsis among very preterm infants using a large and nationally representative cohort of NICUs across the United States.

Methods: Prospective observational study of very preterm infants born 401 to 1500 g and/or 22 to 29 weeks' gestational age (GA) from January 1, 2018, to December 31, 2020, who survived >3 days in 774 participating Vermont Oxford Network centers. Late-onset sepsis was defined as isolation of a pathogenic bacteria from blood and/or cerebrospinal fluid, or fungi from blood, obtained >3 days after birth. Demographics, clinical characteristics, and outcomes were compared between infants with and without late-onset sepsis.

Results: Of 118 650 infants, 10 501 (8.9%) had late-onset sepsis for an incidence rate of 88.5 per 1000 (99% confidence interval [CI] [86.4-90.7]). Incidence was highest for infants born ≤23 weeks GA (322.0 per 1000, 99% CI [306.3-338.1]). The most common pathogens were coagulase negative staphylococci (29.3%) and Staphylococcus aureus (23.0%), but 34 different pathogens were identified. Infected infants had lower survival (adjusted risk ratio [aRR] 0.89, 95% CI [0.87-0.90]) and increased risks of home oxygen (aRR 1.32, 95% CI [1.26-1.38]), tracheostomy (aRR 2.88, 95% CI [2.47-3.37]), and gastrostomy (aRR 2.09, 95% CI [1.93-2.57]) among survivors.

Conclusions: A substantial proportion of very preterm infants continue to suffer late-onset sepsis, particularly those born at the lowest GAs. Infected infants had higher mortality, and survivors had increased risks of technology-dependent chronic morbidities. The persistent burden and diverse microbiology of late-onset sepsis among very preterm infants underscore the need for innovative and potentially organism-specific prevention strategies.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Fetal Growth Retardation
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases*
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal
  • Sepsis*
  • United States / epidemiology