The influence of perinatal infective factors on ophthalmia neonatorum

J Pediatr Ophthalmol Strabismus. 1996 May-Jun;33(3):185-8. doi: 10.3928/0191-3913-19960501-13.


Background: Ophthalmia neonatorum still blinds approximately 10,000 babies annually worldwide. Identification of contributory maternal perinatal factors could possibly predict which babies are at greater risk for this disease.

Methods: In a randomized prospective study of ophthalmia neonatorum in Kenya, we studied the effect of prophylaxis with povidone-iodine, silver nitrate, and erythromycin in 3117 neonates. Four perinatal factors that may promote ophthalmia neonatorum were investigated: maternal vaginitis, birth in a nonsterile environment, presence of meconium at birth, and postnatal development of endometritis.

Results: No significant difference in the general ophthalmia neonatorum rate was found for any of the four factors (P > .14 by Fisher exact test). However, with regard to venereal ophthalmia neonatorum, the 26 infants born to mothers with vaginitis had a relative risk 5.1 times that of the rest of the infants (P = 0.0013). Their relative risk to develop gonococcal ophthalmia neonatorum in particular was 24.9 times the rest of the neonates (P = 0.0000031). Prophylaxis was with povidone-iodine in 12 infants, silver nitrate in two, and erythromycin in 12. The frequency of ophthalmia neonatorum was 25%, 100%, and 33%, respectively (differences not significant).

Conclusion: Neonates born to mothers with vaginitis should be carefully observed for the first postnatal month for the development of ophthalmia neonatorum, even though a prophylactic agent has been used.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local / therapeutic use
  • Endometritis / complications*
  • Erythromycin / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Kenya / epidemiology
  • Maternal Exposure
  • Meconium*
  • Ophthalmia Neonatorum / epidemiology
  • Ophthalmia Neonatorum / etiology*
  • Ophthalmia Neonatorum / prevention & control
  • Povidone-Iodine / therapeutic use
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Silver Nitrate / therapeutic use
  • Vaginitis / complications*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local
  • Erythromycin
  • Povidone-Iodine
  • Silver Nitrate