Tokyo: A new criterion for diagnosis of bacterial infection in preterm infants could lead to earlier diagnosis and improve the prognosis for them, say researchers.
"We could also potentially use this method to limit unnecessary use of antibacterial agents," said lead researcher Morioka Ichiro, professor at Kobe University in Japan.
The findings were published in the online version of the journal Scientific Reports.
Infants born prematurely do not have fully developed immune functions. Compared to full-term infants, if preterm infants suffer a bacterial infection, there is a higher chance of fatality or negative impact on future growth and development.
However, in the case of preterm infants, it can sometimes be hard to detect the signs of bacterial infection visible in adults and other infants. An alternative method was needed to detect infection.
So the researchers focused on monitoring serum concentrations of procalcitonin (PCT), a marker used for early detection of bacterial infection in adults and children.
Between June and December 2014, they examined 1,267 serums from 283 newborns at the neonatal intensive care unit in Kobe University Hospital in Japan.
The results demonstrated that PCT levels in full-term infants rose temporarily one day after birth, returning to the normal level for adults within five days (0.1ng/mL). However, for preterm infants it took nine days after birth for PCT to return to normal levels.
Based on these results, the group developed a method that could lead to earlier detection of bacterial infection in preterm infants, and could also help to improve their prognosis.