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Neonatal early onset sepsis in Middle Eastern countries: a systematic review
  1. Nadim Khalil1,2,
  2. Heather B Blunt3,
  3. Zhongze Li4,
  4. Tyler Hartman2
  1. 1 Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
  2. 2 Department of Pediatrics, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, New Hampshire, USA
  3. 3 Biomedical Libraries, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, USA
  4. 4 Biostatistics Shared Resource, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center, Lebanon, New Hampshire, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Nadim Khalil, Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH 45229, USA; nadim.khalil{at}


Background Early onset neonatal sepsis (EOS) accounts for a significant portion of neonatal mortality, which accounts for 46% of global under five child mortality.

Objective This systematic review studies the bacterial aetiology of EOS in the Middle East, susceptibility patterns to recommended empirical antibiotic therapy and whether this differs between high-income and middle-income countries in the region.

Methods Articles were collected from Medline, Web of Science, the Cochrane Library and Index Medicus for the Eastern Mediterranean Region. The articles included in our systematic review met the following criteria: published after January 2000, data relevant to the Middle East, data specific for early onset sepsis, no language restriction. Data on aetiology and susceptibility were extracted from prospective and retrospective studies. Risk of bias was assessed using the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale. This study focused on EOS but does include data regarding neonatal late-onset sepsis antibiotic susceptibility. The data regarding coagulase-negative Staphylococcus species were excluded from final analysis, as possible contaminants. The protocol for this systematic review was registered on PROSPERO: CRD42017060662.

Results 33 articles from 10 countries were included in the analysis. There were 2215 cases of culture-positive EOS, excluding coagulase-negative Staphylococcus. In middle-income countries, Klebsiella species (26%), Staphylococcus aureus (17%) and Escherichia coli (16%) were the most common pathogens, in contrast to group B Streptococcus (26%), E. coli (24%) and Klebsiella (9%) in high-income countries. Overall susceptibility to ampicillin/gentamicin and third-generation cephalosporin were 40% and 37%, respectively, in middle-income countries versus 93% and 91%, respectively, in high-income countries.

Conclusions EOS in middle-income countries was more likely to be due to Gram-negative pathogens and less likely to be susceptible to empirical antibiotic therapy. This has important public health implications regarding neonatal mortality in the Middle East region.

  • neonatology
  • microbiology
  • infectious diseases
  • epidemiology
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  • Contributors All authors were involved with the study design and concept. NK extracted the data, completed figures and tables. HBB performed the literature search and retrieved the articles. Articles were reviewed independently by NK and TH. Quality assessment was conducted by NK. Statistical analysis was carried out by ZL. All authors contributed to the writing of the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

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