Neonatal airway colonization with Gram-negative bacilli: association with severity of bronchopulmonary dysplasia

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Background.Airway colonization with Gramnegative bacilli (GNB) and Gram-positive cocci (GPC) is common in mechanically ventilated neonates. Whether GNB are related to nosocomial bloodstream infection (BSI) and/or to the severity of bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) is unknown.Methods.We prospectively examine this relationship using a cohort design. Data from 260 ≤1250-g birth weight inborn infants (1991 to 1995) intubated ≥2 weeks included 917 serial tracheal cultures and 583 blood cultures. The severity of BPD was assessed by duration of mechanical ventilation, oxygen dependency at 36 weeks of postconceptional age and the use of home oxygen supplementation.Results.After 2 weeks of ventilation, 80% of the infants were colonized with GPC (Staphylococcus epidermidis and Staphylococcus haemolyticus in 90% of the cases). Superimposed on 36% of these infants was GNB airway colonization with Klebsiella pneumoniae (25%), Enterobacter cloacae (25%), Escherichia coli (25%), Pseudomonas aeruginosa (10%), Serratia marcescens (10%), Acinetobacter baumannii and Haemophilus influenzae (5%). Comparison between 174 GPC- and 86 GNB-colonized infants showed that demographics, birth weight, gestational age, perinatal risk factors and mortality were similar. Fifteen percent of GNB-colonized infants developed BSI caused by GNB and 14% developed BSI caused by GPC. No significant temporal relationship between airway colonization and BSI was noted. GNB infants were ventilated longer and required oxygen at 36 weeks of postconceptional age and home oxygen supplementation twice as often as infants colonized only with GPC. GNB colonization was a predictor of severe BPD after controlling for ventilation. Ureaplasma colonization occurred in 28% of GNB-colonized and 33% of noncolonized infants and was not a predictor of BPD severity.Conclusion.GNB airway colonization creates a moderate risk for BSI. Antibiotic treatment does not regularly eradicate GNB. GNB airway colonization is associated with severe BPD, but further studies will be necessary before therapeutic efforts to eradicate GNB from the airways should be undertaken.

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