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Children's Health

Can a Baby be Born with a Staph Infection?

04/12/2010

Question:

My child was born with postule scars of old infections on his skin and as the seconds, minutes and hours passed he developed new ones. Innitialy it was thought that he had been exposed to the Varisela Virus, while in utero, but after testing it was found to be benign and a none infectious type of rash. We were told that he had a commonly known skin ailment that would go away within weeks and advised to seek a dermatologist for a better prognosis, which we did after two weeks. He gave it a name which at present I can`t remember, but as it turned out because of the persistance of the infection, scabs, liquid pus and because I had a history of this recuring infection thoughout my pregnancy which had been attended through, we asked for him to be retested. As it turned out, it was determined that it was indeed Staph, but the Aureus type.

My question then becomes, can a baby be born with a Staph infection? Can a fetuses immunology be comprimised by medications to this infection? And are there any studies or literature out there that addresses the issue of Staph development while in utero?

So far I have not been able to get a solid answer to my core questions and would realy like to ascertained the facts. I would not want his Staph to mutate and develop into a worse case.

So who are the experts in this field and who can I talk to? Are there any parent assosiations out there that solely addresses this type of skin disease? I would realy like to be on top of this and benefit by the experience of other parents.

Please advise. Thank You.

Answer:

There are a few cases reported of mothers transmitting (maternal transmission) staphylococcus aureus to their babies, although the incidence of community acquired staph infections is much higher and increasingly common. It is also a disease often picked up in newborn nurseries after circumcision because the raw, open skin provides a ready entry point for Staph bacteria from objects and persons carrying the Staph bacteria.

Babies are much more likely than adults to suffer a significant skin infection with Staphylococcal bacteria for two reasons. First, they have impaired immune responses to bacteria because their immune systems are very undeveloped at birth. making fighting infection much more difficult. Secondly, newborns and young infants have decreased kidney function making it more difficult for their bodies to get rid of the toxins (poisons) produced by the Staph bacteria that result in skin infections and separations of skin layers.

It is most likely that your son did indeed have the benign condition of transient neonatal pustular melanosis and later acquired a Staph infection on his skin. Staph aureus is the most common bacteria causing skin infections in newborns and it is everywhere in the environment. While it is possible that he may have acquired it from you during the birthing process, it is far more likely that he came into contact with it elsewhere in his environment.

Thankfully, these infections are usually effectively treated with antibiotics and no permanent harm is done to the child. It is none-the-less a very scary time for parents. I hope that this information is helpful to you.


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Response by:

Mary M Gottesman, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAAN Mary M Gottesman, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAAN
Professor of Clinical Nursing
College of Nursing
The Ohio State University