Background: Neonatal septicemia (NNS) occurs frequently in neonatal intensive care units (NICU) and is often associated with high morbidity and mortality. However, information on its incidence and causative agents in Kuwait hospitals is scanty. Objectives: To investigate the bacterial causative agents of NNS in a NICU and their susceptibility patterns to antimicrobial agents. Methods: Between May 1 and December 31, 1996, blood cultures were performed on all admissions to the Neonatal Unit, Al-Jahra Hospital, Kuwait, with the Bactec 9240 instrument (Becton Dickinson, USA). Microorganisms were identified by cultural characteristics, Gram stain and biochemical profiles and antimicrobial susceptibility patterns performed by disk diffusion and by measuring their minimum inhibitory concentrations. Results: From a total of 995 neonates admitted to the neonatal unit during the study period, 117 (11.7%) had positive blood cultures. Eighty-seven (8.7%) of the neonates had confirmed septicemia. Gram-positive organisms were cultured from 65 (75%) and gram-negative organisms from 22 (25%) of them. The most frequent organisms isolated were Staphylococcus epidermidis (34%), Streptococcus viridans (28%) and Candida species (14%). Resistance to ampicillin and cephalosporins was detected in both gram-positive and gram-negative organisms associated with sepsis. Conclusions: The study identified the common bacterial pathogens associated with NNS in a neonatal unit, their susceptibility patterns to antimicrobial agents and emphasized the importance of understanding local epidemiology of NNS in formulating an antibiotic policy.

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