Escherichia coli causes neonatal early-onset sepsis (EOS) that is associated with high mortality and increasing antibiotic resistance. Thus, we estimated the prevalence, antibiotic susceptibility and risk factors for colonization of E. coli in premature infants at birth and characterized the pathogenicity of the isolates.
A prospective surveillance study was conducted at three Japanese perinatal centers between August 2014 and February 2017. Infants weighing <2 kg and/or at gestational age <35 weeks at birth were enrolled. We screened the mothers and neonates for E. coli colonization. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis was used to analyze the relatedness between the maternal and neonatal isolates. Virulence factors for the isolates were determined using polymerase chain reaction.
We enrolled 421 premature infants born to 382 mothers. The rate of colonization in mothers was 47.6%, comprising 5.9% extended-spectrum beta-lactamase-producing E. coli (ESBL-E) and 20.0% ampicillin-resistant strains. Ten (2.4%) infants exhibited colonization; ESBL-E and ampicillin-resistant strains colonized three and four infants, respectively. Three antibiotic-resistant, strain-positive infants developed EOS. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis revealed vertical transmission of bacteria in four infants. Multivariate logistic regression analysis revealed that ESBL-E-positive mothers [odds ratio (OR), 19.2; 95% confidence interval (CI), 2.5–145.7)] and vaginal delivery (OR, 9.4; 95% CI, 1.7–50.7) were risk factors for neonatal colonization. The infant isolates possessed numerous virulence factors.
Although the prevalence of E. coli-colonized premature infants at birth was low, the rate of antibiotic resistance and the attack rate for EOS were high. Infants with ESBL-E positive mothers should be closely monitored for EOS.