Early-onset sepsis remains a common and serious problem for neonates, especially preterm infants. Group B streptococcus (GBS) is the most common etiologic agent, while Escherichia coli is the most common cause of mortality. Current efforts toward maternal intrapartum antimicrobial prophylaxis have significantly reduced the rates of GBS disease but have been associated with increased rates of Gram-negative infections, especially among very-low-birth-weight infants. The diagnosis of neonatal sepsis is based on a combination of clinical presentation; the use of nonspecific markers, including C-reactive protein and procalcitonin (where available); blood cultures; and the use of molecular methods, including PCR.
Cytokines, including interleukin 6 (IL-6), interleukin 8 (IL-8), gamma interferon (IFN-?), and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-?), and cell surface antigens, including soluble intercellular adhesion molecule (sICAM) and CD64, are also being increasingly examined for use as nonspecific screening measures for neonatal sepsis. Viruses, in particular enteroviruses, parechoviruses, and herpes simplex virus (HSV), should be considered in the differential diagnosis. Empirical treatment should be based on local patterns of antimicrobial resistance but typically consists of the use of ampicillin and gentamicin, or ampicillin and cefotaxime if meningitis is suspected, until the etiologic agent has been identified. Current research is focused primarily on development of vaccines against GBS.