Many new-born babies die due to sepsis as clinicians fail to diagnose it early. Sepsis is diagnosed using blood microbial culture, complete blood count and assay of C-reactive protein. But these methods are time-consuming. Moreover, they do not help us understand the severity or predict mortality due to sepsis.
Recently, Malay B. Mukherjee and team from the ICMR-National Institute of Immuno-haematology, Mumbai showed that variations in red cell sizes, or red cell distribution width, can be used as
marker for mortality risk in neonatal sepsis.
They took data on 251 septic new-borns from the KEM Hospital, Mumbai. The babies had no other health disorder or family history of blood-related disorders. The team collected venous blood from the babies and performed complete blood count, C-reactive protein assay and blood microbial culture.
They also compared the red cell distribution width values of these babies and normal babies of comparable gestational age and weight. The values were significantly higher in babies with sepsis.
In fact, these values were higher in babies that did not survive than in those who survived. Babies with red cell distribution width values above 20% had higher risk of mortality, say
The research took an adequate sample size to confirm what was suspected earlier. Since red cell distribution width can be easily and quickly assessed, it can be used in clinical practice to initiate treatment early, reducing neonatal mortality.
J. Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine, 32 (12): 1925-1930 (2019);
*This is an updated version of a report that appeared in our column, Science Last Fortnight, Current Science, 116 (12): 1944-1947 (2019)