Antibiotic regimens for late-onset neonatal sepsis

Steven Kwasi Korang*, Sanam Safi, Chiara Nava, Gorm Greisen, Munish Gupta, Ulrik Lausten-Thomsen, Janus C Jakobsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

63 Downloads (Pure)


BACKGROUND: Neonatal sepsis is a major cause of morbidity and mortality. It is the third leading cause of neonatal mortality globally constituting 13% of overall neonatal mortality. Despite the high burden of neonatal sepsis, high-quality evidence in diagnosis and treatment is scarce. Due to the diagnostic challenges of sepsis and the relative immunosuppression of the newborn, many neonates receive antibiotics for suspected sepsis. Antibiotics have become the most used therapeutics in neonatal intensive care units, and observational studies in high-income countries suggest that 83% to 94% of newborns treated with antibiotics for suspected sepsis have negative blood cultures. The last Cochrane Review was updated in 2005. There is a need for an updated systematic review assessing the effects of different antibiotic regimens for late-onset neonatal sepsis.

OBJECTIVES: To assess the beneficial and harmful effects of different antibiotic regimens for late-onset neonatal sepsis.

SEARCH METHODS: We searched the following electronic databases: CENTRAL (2021, Issue 3); Ovid MEDLINE; Embase Ovid; CINAHL; LILACS; Science Citation Index EXPANDED and Conference Proceedings Citation Index - Science on 12 March 2021. We also searched clinical trials databases and the reference lists of retrieved articles for randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and quasi-RCTs.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We included RCTs comparing different antibiotic regimens for late-onset neonatal sepsis. We included participants older than 72 hours of life at randomisation, suspected or diagnosed with neonatal sepsis, meningitis, osteomyelitis, endocarditis, or necrotising enterocolitis. We excluded trials that assessed treatment of fungal infections.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Three review authors independently assessed studies for inclusion, extracted data, and assessed risk of bias. We used the GRADE approach to assess the certainty of evidence. Our primary outcome was all-cause mortality, and our secondary outcomes were: serious adverse events, respiratory support, circulatory support, nephrotoxicity, neurological developmental impairment, necrotising enterocolitis, and ototoxicity. Our primary time point of interest was at maximum follow-up.

MAIN RESULTS: We included five RCTs (580 participants). All trials were at high risk of bias, and had very low-certainty evidence. The five included trials assessed five different comparisons of antibiotics. We did not conduct a meta-analysis due to lack of relevant data. Of the five included trials one trial compared cefazolin plus amikacin with vancomycin plus amikacin; one trial compared ticarcillin plus clavulanic acid with flucloxacillin plus gentamicin; one trial compared cloxacillin plus amikacin with cefotaxime plus gentamicin; one trial compared meropenem with standard care (ampicillin plus gentamicin or cefotaxime plus gentamicin); and one trial compared vancomycin plus gentamicin with vancomycin plus aztreonam. None of the five comparisons found any evidence of a difference when assessing all-cause mortality, serious adverse events, circulatory support, nephrotoxicity, neurological developmental impairment, or necrotising enterocolitis; however, none of the trials were near an information size that could contribute significantly to the evidence of the comparative benefits and risks of any particular antibiotic regimen. None of the trials assessed respiratory support or ototoxicity. The benefits and harms of different antibiotic regimens remain unclear due to the lack of well-powered trials and the high risk of systematic errors.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: Current evidence is insufficient to support any antibiotic regimen being superior to another. RCTs assessing different antibiotic regimens in late-onset neonatal sepsis with low risks of bias are warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD013836
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Issue number5
Number of pages56
Publication statusPublished - 8. May 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2021 The Cochrane Collaboration. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


Dive into the research topics of 'Antibiotic regimens for late-onset neonatal sepsis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this