Skip to main content
NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

New Strategy Holds Promise for Detecting Bacterial Infections in Newborns

A mom's arm reaches toward a crying baby in a bassinet.

Researchers have shown it’s possible to diagnose a bacterial infection from a small sample of blood in infants 2 months of age or younger who have fevers.

Researchers supported in part by NICHD have shown that it’s possible to diagnose a bacterial infection from a small sample of blood—based on the immune system’s response to the bacteria—in infants 2 months of age or younger who have fevers. With additional research, the new technique could be an improvement over the standard method, which requires isolating live bacteria from blood, urine or spinal fluid and growing them in a laboratory culture. The study appeared Aug. 23 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Health care providers who evaluate young infants with fevers have limited means to quickly and accurately diagnose whether or not an illness results from a bacterial infection. Determining if the illness is caused by bacteria may involve complicated medical procedures, such as a lumbar puncture (spinal tap). While they wait for the test results, physicians also may need to admit the infant for a lengthy hospital stay or prescribe antibiotics, which may later turn out to be unnecessary. 

“The development of a fast and noninvasive diagnostic tool holds promise for better outcomes and lower treatment costs for young infants with fevers of unknown cause,” said Dr. Valerie Maholmes of NICHD.

The NIH Record

The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

Published 25 times each year, it comes out on payday Fridays.

Associate Editor: Carla Garnett
Carla.Garnett@nih.gov

Staff Writers:

Eric Bock
Eric.Bock@nih.gov

Dana Talesnik
Dana.Talesnik@nih.gov

Back to Top