Seventy infants with suspected bacterial infection in the first 48 hours of life were treated either with piperacillin and flucloxacillin or with penicillin and gentamicin. Infection was confirmed and successfully eradicated in 6 of the 35 infants receiving piperacillin and flucloxacillin. Four infants treated with penicillin and gentamicin had confirmed infection and one deteriorated initially but then recovered when treated with piperacillin. Serum piperacillin concentrations above 100 mg/l and cerebrospinal fluid piperacillin concentrations of 2.6-6 mg/l were noted for up to four hours and 7 hours respectively, even in the absence of inflamed meninges, after administration of piperacillin 100 mg/kg body weight intravenously. Median half life of piperacillin was 6.5 hours and was prolonged in renal impairment. Piperacillin is considered to be a safe and effective first line single agent treatment for early neonatal infection but because some Escherichia coli are resistant to it we recommend that a second agent be used in critically ill infants with neutropenia or meningitis.
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