Vast majority of preterm babies receive early antibiotic therapy

A study, published in JAMA Network Open, examined early antibiotic use among premature infants in the U.S.

Researchers conducted a retrospective cohort study using data from an administrative database of inpatient encounters from 297 academic and community hospitals across the country. They studied 40,364 very low birth weight infants, including 12,947 extremely low birth weight infants — who weighed less than 1,000 grams/2.20 pounds — admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit and who survived for at least one day.

The study shows 78.6 percent of very low birth weight infants and 87 percent of extremely low birth weight infants were given antibiotics within the first three days of life. There was a small but significant decrease in the rate of prolonged antibiotic duration for very low birth weight infants over time, but not for extremely low birth weight infants.

Additionally, researchers found early antibiotic exposures across centers varied. Around 61 percent of centers started antibiotic therapy for more than 75 percent of very low birth weight infants, and 84.8 percent started antibiotic therapy for more than 75 percent of extremely low birth weight infants.

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