Littlest Babies Damaged by Infection

November 17, 2004 -- Extremely low birth weight infants are at high risk for developmental impairments if they have an infection during the newborn period, according to a new report appearing today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The extremely low birth weight infants in this study weighed 1000 g (2.2 lbs) or less. The developmental impairments they tended to suffer following infection included cerebral palsy and diminished intelligence as well as decreased physical growth.

Our Comments

Neonatal infections are frequent problems for extremely low birth weight infants who must receive intensive care if they are to survive. The infections may be almost anywhere, it appears. Not just meningitis but also sepsis (bloodstream infection) and necrotizing enterocolitis (an intestinal infection) can impair the baby's development.

There is a need for increased excellence in preventing infection in these very vulnerable babies. We are doing better in saving their lives. We must do better in protecting them from lasting disabilities.

Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.
Frederick Hecht, M.D.
Medical Editors, MedicineNet.com