Overuse of antibiotics can facilitate antibiotic resistance and is associated with adverse neonatal outcomes. We studied the association between duration of antibiotic therapy and short-term outcomes of very low birth weight (VLBW) (<1500 g) infants without culture-proven sepsis.
We included VLBW infants admitted to NICUs in the Canadian Neonatal Network between 2010–2016 who were exposed to antibiotics but did not have culture-proven sepsis in the first week. Antibiotic exposure was calculated as the number of days an infant received antibiotics in the first week of life. Composite primary outcome was defined as mortality or any major morbidity (severe neurologic injury, retinopathy of prematurity, necrotizing enterocolitis, chronic lung disease, or hospital-acquired infection).
Of the 14 207 included infants, 21% (n = 2950), 38% (n = 5401), and 41% (n = 5856) received 0, 1 to 3, and 4 to 7 days of antibiotics, respectively. Antibiotic exposure for 4 to 7 days was associated with higher odds of the composite outcome (adjusted odds ratio 1.24; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.09–1.41). Each additional day of antibiotic use was associated with 4.7% (95% CI 2.6%–6.8%) increased odds of composite outcome and 7.3% (95% CI 3.3%–11.4%) increased odds in VLBW infants at low risk of early-onset sepsis (born via cesarean delivery, without labor and without chorioamnionitis).
Prolonged empirical antibiotic exposure within the first week after birth in VLBW infants is associated with increased odds of the composite outcome. This practice is a potential target for antimicrobial stewardship.