Severe bacterial infections are a major cause of morbidity and mortality among newborns and young infants in the developing world.

Recent analyses estimate that globally, 532,000 newborns die each year as a result of severe infections, over one-fifth of the total burden of newborn deaths. Most of these deaths could be averted through preventive measures, such as improving hygiene practices and ensuring timely management of care for sick newborns.


percentage of neonatal deaths caused by severe bacterial infections


number of newborns who die each year as a result of severe infections


Preventive measures during the antenatal and intrapartum periods can reduce the risk of congenital and newborn infections while protecting the health of the mother. Before and during pregnancy, women can be screened and treated for syphilis and vaccinated against diseases like tetanus. In addition to preventing subsequent infection in the newborn, treating maternal infections during pregnancy can also reduce the risk for preterm birth, a leading cause of newborn mortality.

Clean birth practices reduce the rate of newborn infections at home and in facility settings. Hygienic umbilical cord care, including using a sterile instrument to cut the cord and, when appropriate, applying chlorhexidine to the newborn cord stump, can also reduce infection. Early and exclusive breastfeeding also reduces the likelihood of newborn infections in several ways, including providing critical support to boost immune system development and avoiding the introduction of potentially harmful substances to the immature gut.