Current guidelines for prevention of neonatal group B Streptococcal (GBS) disease recommend diagnostic evaluations and empiric antibiotic therapy for well-appearing, chorioamnionitis-exposed newborns. Some clinicians question these recommendations, citing the decline in early-onset GBS disease rates since widespread intrapartum antibiotic prophylaxis (IAP) implementation and potential antibiotic risks. We aimed to determine whether chorioamnionitis-exposed newborns with culture-confirmed early-onset infections can be asymptomatic at birth.
Multicenter, prospective surveillance for early-onset neonatal infections was conducted 2006–2009. Early-onset infection was defined as isolation of a pathogen from blood or cerebrospinal fluid collected ≤72 hours after birth. Maternal chorioamnionitis was defined by clinical diagnosis in the medical record or histologic diagnosis by placental pathology. Hospital records of newborns with early-onset infections born to mothers with chorioamnionitis were reviewed retrospectively to determine symptom onset.
Early-onset infections were diagnosed in 389 of 396,586 live births, including 232 (60%) chorioamnionitis-exposed newborns. Records for 229 were reviewed; 29 (13%) had no documented symptoms within 6 hours of birth, including 21 (9%) who remained asymptomatic at 72 hours. IAP exposure did not differ significantly between asymptomatic and symptomatic infants (76% vs. 69%, p=0.52). Assuming complete guideline implementation, we estimated 60 to 1400 newborns would receive diagnostic evaluations and antibiotics for each infected, asymptomatic newborn, depending on chorioamnionitis prevalence.
Some infants born to mothers with chorioamnionitis may have no signs of sepsis at birth despite having culture-confirmed infections. Implementation of current clinical guidelines may result in early diagnosis, but large numbers of uninfected asymptomatic infants would be treated.