What is Cronobacter sakazakii?

Cronobacter sakazakii is a bacterium that causes a rare but often fatal infection of the bloodstream and central nervous system. Infants with weakened immune systems, particularly premature infants, are most likely to contract a Cronobacter infection.

Most cases of Cronobacter sakazakii come from powdered infant formula contaminated with the bacterium. High temperatures reached in preparing formula usually kill Cronobacter bacteria, but they are known to survive even after preparation.

What are typical symptoms of Cronobacter infection?

Infants infected with Cronobacter usually feed poorly, are irritable, jaundiced, grunt while breathing, and have an unstable body temperature. A Cronobacter sakazakii infection can also turn lead to meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

Around 50 percent of infants who have Cronobacter sakazakii die, and those who survive may experience neurological impairment.

How can I prevent my infant from becoming ill with a Cronobacter sakazakii infection?

The CDC recommends the following steps for preventing a Cronobacter infection:

  • Use hot water to make baby milk from infant formula powder—Water should reach a heat of 158°F (70°C)
  • Choose an alternative to a powdered form of baby milk. Liquid formula is usually sterile
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for preparing baby milk from powdered formula
  • Throw out prepared formula if you don’t use it within 24 hours of preparing it
  • Limit “hang time” for continuous feeding via tube to four hours

You can learn more about Cronobacter at FoodborneIllness.com.