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What is the Current Disease Burden of Neonatal Infections Across the Globe?

Craig Rubens, MD, PhD, co-founder and executive director of GAPPS at Seattle Children’s Hospital, describes the current disease burden of neonatal infections across the globe.

Craig Rubens, MD, PhD, co-founder and executive director of GAPPS at Seattle Children’s Hospital, describes the current disease burden of neonatal infections across the globe.

Interview Transcript (slightly modified for readability)

“Neonatal infections are infections that occur in the baby in the first 30 days of life. These babies can be born full-term, [after] a full 40 weeks of pregnancy, or they can be born pre-term, down to 23 weeks. In the developing world, because of problems with prematurity, most babies won’t live unless they are at least 28-30 weeks old.

The problem for, even, full-term babies, is that they have certain problems with their immune systems that put them at risk for either acquiring an infection from a bacteria that’s in the mom’s reproductive tract, or while [the mom] is pregnant, bacteria can transfer across to a fetus. When the baby is born, it can either have an infection related to that, or secondarily, the baby can actually get infected when it’s now in the family and out in the community, right after birth.

About 800,000 babies will die every year, especially in the developing world, from a serious bacterial infection, most of which occur in the first 24-48 hours of life. Because of their immune system, a baby can be at risk up to 3 months of life for infections that we don’t often see later in childhood or infancy.

This burden of disease has gotten so great, and we haven’t really addressed how to treat those infections well in under-developed countries because of lack of resources that they now make up up to 44% of the mortality under the age of five years. So, being a newborn puts you at significant risk, when you’re in a low-resource setting, for some type of complication. [This comes from] either from being born too soon (prematurity), or dying of an infection that we can actually take care of in a more developed setting or high-tech setting.”