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Unexpected outcome (positive or negative) including adverse drug reactions
Neonatal sepsis: A, B, C–don’t ever forget herpes
  1. Lucy Anne Fitzgerald1,
  2. Diluki Kevitiyagala1,
  3. Steve Gould2,
  4. Stanley Zengeya1
  1. 1Department of Women and Children’s Health, The Great Western Hospital, Swindon, Wiltshire, UK
  2. 2Department of Paediatric Pathology, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Lucy Anne Fitzgerald, lucyfitzgerald{at}


A 5-day-old male presents to the emergency department septic and jaundiced, is resuscitated and started on broad spectrum intravenous antibiotics. However tragically in this case despite showing initial signs of stabilisation, he deteriorated with refractory metabolic acidosis and disseminated intravascular coagulation, and later passed away. At postmortem, disseminated herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1) was found. Paediatricians are well aware of the risk factors for bacterial neonatal sepsis and actively seek information from parents to identify those children at risk. When however should a viral aetiology be considered? Should all neonates receive empirical therapy until proven otherwise? The authors review the literature surrounding neonatal HSV infection and discuss the potential pitfalls of empirical treatment.

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained.