A total of 880 samples of faeces from 584 neonates in four hospitals were examined for the presence of antibiotic-resistant Gram-negative bacilli. The proportion of strains of and spp. carrying R factors was also determined. Some resistant strains of and spp. were rapidly acquired after birth and the number of isolates increased in relation to the length of hospital stay. The proportion of isolates of spp. increased to over 60% in babies in special care units but increased to a lesser extent (less than 30%) in other wards. The four hospitals showed differences in the proportion of babies carrying antibiotic-resistant strains and this was partly attributable to the inclusion of samples from special care units in three of the hospitals. Antibiotic-resistant Gram-negative bacilli other than and spp. were isolated much less frequently. Transferable resistance was demonstrated in 49% of 208 resistant strains of and in only 6·5% of 240 strains of spp.

An increased frequency of resistant strains was found in babies associated with abnormal deliveries and in babies treated with antibiotics. Resistant strains were probably acquired initially from the mothers, but although there was evidence of cross-infection with and spp. particularly in special care units, no common source was identified.


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