Neonatal Staphylococcal Infection (Staph Infection)

What is Staphylococcal Bacteria?

Staphylococcus (Staph) is the name for a group of common bacteria that, when it becomes infectious, can lead to serious disease. Healthy adults may carry around Staph bacteria in their nose or on their skin – in these areas, the bacteria is not harmful. However, if Staph bacteria gets into a cut or open sore, it may become pathogenic (disease-causing).

People can become exposed to Staph bacteria through direct contact with an infected sore or wound or with infected personal care items (razors, bandages, etc).

Staph Infection in Infants


Healthy hospital personnel often unknowingly carry Staphylococcus bacteria, which they can transmit to an infant if they do not follow hygiene rules. Babies may become infected through contact with hospital staff during invasive procedures or through contaminated medical equipment such as catheters or forms of mechanical ventilation. If Staph bacteria enters the baby’s bloodstream or airway, the baby can become sick.

Risk Factors for Neonatal Staph Infection

Certain newborn populations are at greater risk for Staph infection than others. Risk factors for neonatal Staph infection include”

  • Prematurity
  • Very low birth weight
  • Lengthy hospital stays
  • Invasive procedures
  • Use of venous catheters

Signs of Neonatal Staph Infection

If a neonate is infected with Staph bacteria, certain signs may appear. Common signs of neonatal Staph infection include:

  • Hypothermia or hyperthermia
  • Tachycardia or bradycardia
  • Lethargy and irritability
  • Vomiting
  • Skin lesions

Treating Staph Infections in Babies

The most common treatment for Staph infection is an antibiotic called methicillin, which is considered the first line of defense against this bacteria. However, certain strains of Staph bacteria have a built-in resistance to methicillin, rendering the antibiotic ineffective. In this case, medical professionals often administer antibiotics like vancomycin, rifampicin, or teicoplanin to treat the infection.

Infant Staph Infection, Sepsis, and Meningitis

If left untreated, or if not treated in a timely manner, Staph infection can progress into serious illnesses such as sepsis and meningitis. Sepsis – a condition in which a baby’s blood stream becomes infected – must be treated promptly, oftentimes before a formal diagnosis is made through lab work. Commonly-prescribed drugs to treat sepsis include ampicillin and gentamicin.  

If sepsis is not treated in a timely manner, it can progress into an infection of the brain and spinal cord called meningitis. Because meningitis can be fatal, it is often treated as soon as it as suspected in order to prevent irreversible harm. Meningitis is treated with antimicrobial drugs, which are often supplemented with IV fluids and anticonvulsant medicine in the presence of seizures. If treatment of meningitis is delayed it can result in brain damage that can lead to conditions including cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, and developmental disabilities.

Preventing Infant Staph Infection

Prevention is aimed at minimizing the transfer of Staph bacteria to neonates by limiting unnecessary interventions in the nursery and by ensuring sanitation and sterility throughout the hospital. Some actions that can be taken to help prevent Staph infection in neonates include:

  • Frequent and proper handwashing
  • Rational use of antibiotics
  • Use of sterile barriers (field, clothes, cap, mask, and gloves) during invasive procedures
  • Continual surveillance for infection
  • Vaccination when indicated

ABC Law Centers | Michigan Birth Injury Attorneys Helping Children Since 1997

If Staphylococcal infection – or any other infection – is not diagnosed and properly treated in a neonate, it can be very dangerous.

If your child was diagnosed with Staphylococcal infection shortly after birth, and it was not promptly treated, the attorneys at ABC Law Centers (Reiter & Walsh, P.C.) can help. We have the knowledge and professional experience to thoroughly examine the complex medical records of your child’s case, determine whether there was an error or negligence, and help you obtain the monetary compensation your child deserves. Free of charge and obligations, we will answer your legal questions, determine the negligent party, and inform you of your legal options. Our team is available to speak with you to set up an appointment in any of the following ways