NeoIPC feasibility phase

The NeoIPC Colonisation Surveillance, also called NeoIPC feasibility phase, was a multi-centre study seeking to understand and characterise bacterial colonisation in newborns hospitalised in neonatal units in Europe.

The study was sponsored by Penta and conducted in collaboration with St George’s, University of London, University of Antwerp and University Medical Center Utrecht.

What were the aims?

  • Help understand the levels of resistant bacterial colonisation and patterns of antibiotic use across neonatal units.
  • Determine the best strategies for obtaining microbiological data​ from newborn babies.
  • Get an understanding of Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) practices performed in neonatal units​.
  • Inform the design of the NeoDeco study, which sets out to find new ways to prevent infections in babies.

Why was it important?

  • Newborns on neonatal units are at high risk of bacterial infections, particularly those born prematurely.
  • Babies that have resistant bacteria on their skin have an increased risk of developing bacterial infection.
  • The more babies there are with resistant bacteria in a neonatal unit, the higher the likelihood that they will contribute to the spread of resistant bacteria within that unit (colonisation pressure).


Who participated?

23 neonatal units across 8 European countries

What was done?

Over the course of six weeks, participating units were required to: 

  • Take skin swabs and stool samples from babies during four cross-sectional surveys, and ship them to a laboratory located at the University of Antwerp for identification of potentially harmful bacteria 
  • Collect anonymous information about antibiotics given to babies at specific time points 
  • Fill out a survey about IPC and care practices implemented within the unit. 

The study in numbers:

babies participated in the study

surveys collected

skin swabs collected

stool samples collected

What was found (so far)?

  • On average, 45% of babies in the study were born before 32 weeks and were considered high-risk.
  • About 38% of the samples collected did not show any resistant bacteria.
  • The rate of resistant bacterial colonisation in newborns appears generally low in European neonatal units. However, this rate varied greatly between countries, ranging from 0% to 100%.
  • In surveys that did find resistant bacteria, both premature (high-risk) and full-term (low-risk) babies could be colonised.
  • The presence of resistant bacteria was not linked to the number of high-risk babies in the neonatal units.
  • Focusing infection prevention and control measures only on premature babies could overlook many cases of resistant bacterial colonisation in full-term babies.
  • The detailed findings of this study provide insights into how resistant bacteria spread in a NICU. They can be found in the publications below.
  • The Colonisation Surveillance study  has shaped the design and methods of the NeoDeco study.
  • NeoDeco will look at how implementing optimised kangaroo care can affect infections and the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in neonatal units. Find out more about NeoDeco.

* These results are based on samples and data collected from the first 20 sites that completed the feasibility phase.

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