Ureaplasma spp. is a known risk factor for bronchopulmonary dysplasia in premature infants. Emerging research suggests treatment with azithromycin or clarithromycin in the first days of life (DOLs) reduces bronchopulmonary dysplasia in Ureaplasma spp. positive infants. Side effects of these antibiotics make it imperative to optimize reliable noninvasive screening procedures to identify infants who would benefit from treatment.
The aim of this study was to determine the best site and time to screen for Ureaplasma spp. in 24- to 34-week premature infants. Oral, nasal, gastric and tracheal cultures were collected and placed immediately in 10B broth media. Polymerase chain reaction verified culture results and identified the Ureaplasma spp.
Cultures yielded a Ureaplasma spp. incidence of 80/168 = 47.6% [95% confidence interval (CI): 40–56]. Nasal cultures had greater sensitivity to detect Ureaplasma spp. than oral cultures (P = 0.008): however, a significant proportion of infants with Ureaplasma spp. would have been missed (12/79 = 15.2%, 95% CI: 8%–25%, P < 0.001) if oral cultures were not obtained. For all sites, the collection at DOL 7–10 were more likely to be positive than the collection at DOL 1–2: however, a significant proportion (5/77 = 6.5%, 95% CI: 2–15, P < 0.001) of infants with Ureaplasma spp. would have been missed if the DOL 1–2 cultures were not obtained.
For optimal Ureaplasma spp. detection in 24- to 34-week premature infants, cultures need to be taken both early and late in the first 10 DOLs both from nasal and oral secretions.