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Signs and Symptoms of a Cronobacter Sakazakii Infection
in a Baby from Powdered Infant Formula

Author:   Peter Sedesse MD

Where does Cronobacter Sakazakii come from?

Cronobacter sakazakii is a bacteria found many places in nature, but can cause severe illness or death in newborn babies if it is ingested.  The most likely cause for an infection is through tainted infant formula or if the bacteria is present in the water used to mix powdered infant formula.  Because Cronobacter sakazakii is found frequently in nature, it is important to sterilize both bottles and the water used to make the formula.

Health risks of Cronobacter sakazakii

Cronobacter sakazakii is dangerous because once it enters the digestive system, it quickly causes death to portions of the intestines, which allows the bacteria to enter the blood stream.  Once in the bloodstream, the presence of the Cronobacter sakazakii bacteria results in a body-wide immune response, called sepsis, which can cause organ failure, and ultimately death.  The bacteria also can cause meningitis if it reaches the protective laying surrounding the brain and spinal chord.

Symptoms of Cronobacter sakazakii infections

In the initial stages, an infection of Cronobacter sakazakii would lead to digestive symptoms in newborns.  These would include irritability caused by abdominal pain, fever, food intolerance, vomiting, and a complete lack of appetite in the baby.  This would progress very quickly to more severe symptoms as the bacteria causes the death of tissue in the intestines.  These more severe symptoms would include abdominal distention (swelling) and blood in the feces.  As time passes, the skin over the abdomen will turn a dark reddish color.

Most dangerious progression of a Cronobacter sakazakii infection

As the Cronobacter sakazakii enters the bloodstream, the more severe and life-threatening symptoms would occur, these include very low blood pressure, extremely high fever, shallow breathing and unconsciousness. The diagnosis for a newborn entering this stage of a Cronobacter sakazakii infection are not good and requires powerful antibiotics and other procedures to prevent permanent organ or brain damage.

While digestive issues are common in a newborn baby.  A Cronobacter sakazakii infection will have symptoms that get worse rapidly.  The most important thing is to prevent the infection to begin with by properly cleaning bottles and using sterilized water for powdered infant formula.  The infection progresses rapidly and a fever would be usually the first sign that there is something wrong besides normal baby eating problems..

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