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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU: Low Birth Weight, Lack of Breastfeeding Fuel Infection Rates in India

Although India has increased the percentage of babies born in hospitals and other facilities, 6 percent of infants have possible serious bacterial infection (PSBI), with low birth weight, mothers who present late to antenatal care, and the lack of early initiation of breastfeeding among key risk factors, according to a study led by a Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researcher.

The study, BMC Public Health, examined the incidence of PSBI in 20 rural primary health centers around Nagpur, India. Of 37,379 live singleton births, 2,123 met the criteria for PSBI, and 493 of those babies died. Among infants with PSBI, breathing problems were the most common symptom reported, followed by fever and feeding problems.

The research team, led by Dr. Patricia Hibberd, professor and chair of global health at BUSPH, found that the risk of infection was increased for mothers who were younger than 20 years old; had never given birth before or had more than two prior viable pregnancies; had no antenatal care or had a first care visit during the second or third trimester; or had received corticosteroids during pregnancy. Infant characteristics associated with PSBI included low birth weight, lack of early initiation of breastfeeding, and male gender.

“Since neonatal infections are the third most common cause of neonatal deaths worldwide and the leading cause of death in the late neonatal period (7-27 days), achieving significant reductions in neonatal mortality requires improvements in the identification and treatment of neonatal infections,” the study team wrote.

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