New research suggests that hospitalized infants are highly susceptible to serious bloodstream infections, which are often debilitating and life-threatening.
In a study published last week in the medical journal The Lancet, researchers from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) indicate that bloodstream infections are the most common type of hospital acquired infection, and that children under the age of 12 months face the highest risk.
The ECDC held the first Europe-wide survey of hospital acquired infections in acute care hospitals, examining data from May 2011 to November 2012. The surveys were conducted in 1,149 hospitals in EU member states, including Iceland, Norway, and Croatia.
Patients who were present on the hospital ward at 8 a.m. on the day of the first survey, and who were not discharged at the time of the survey were included. Data was collected by locally trained healthcare workers, and pediatric data was taken from the ECDC database for pediatric patients ages 0 to 18 year.
Researchers analyzed data involving more than 17,000 children and adolescents from 29 countries. This included 770 healthcare associated infections reported in 726 children and adolescents.
The study found 392 microorganisms reported for 342 hospital acquired infections. Enterobacteriaceae was the most frequently found bacteria, detected among one-in-six children and one-in-10 infants in neonatal units.
Nearly 80% of the cases of infection were identified in infants younger than 12 months old. Bloodstream infections were the most common, occurring in 45% of infections studied.
“This type of infections in neonates and children are associated with a high mortality and long-term adverse neurological outcomes,” an ECDC press release states.
Following bloodstream infections were lower respiratory tract infections, occurring in 22% of cases, and gastrointestinal infections, occurring in eight percent. Those were followed by eye, ear, nose and throat infections and urinary tract infections.
Among the infections, surgical site infections had the highest prevalence among pediatric intensive care units and neonatal intensive care units.
The proportion of hospital infections also remains high in other age groups as well. A study published in 2014 indicated 1 out of 25 hospital patients will acquire an infection somewhere in the healthcare system. In 2011, 75,000 patients died after contracting an infection in a health care facility.
Researchers in the latest study found a number of risk factors that appear to contribute to the likelihood of an infection. Most at risk were children younger than 12 months, having a fatal disease, prolonged length of stay in the hospital, and the use of invasive medical devices. All those factors made an infant more susceptible to bloodstream infections.
Study authors called for a program to prevent and reduce the high rates of hospital acquired infections in children.