Officials with the US Preventive Services Task Force this week noted that applying an antibiotic ointment to the eye, also known as ocular prophylaxis, of babies with gonococcal ophthalmia neonatorum (GON) is a "safe and effective" practice. The recommendation, which they noted was an A recommendation, is consisten with their previous recommendation made in 2011. 

About half of the babies born to mothers with gonorrhea could develop GON without erythromycin prophylaxis, according to the statement, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Assocation and on the Task Force's website

“The Task Force continues to recommend that all newborns are given antibiotic ointment to prevent GON,” Task Force member and pediatrician Michael Silverstein, MD, MPH said in a news bulletin. “The medicine is safe and highly effective at preventing this serious eye infection and its devastating consequences, including blindness.”

Screening for and treatment of gonorrhea in pregnant women are also important strategies for preventing GON in babies, according to the Task Force. In a separate recommendation, the Task Force recommends that all pregnant women at risk for gonorrhea be screened and treated for the infection as part of routine prenatal care. However, since not all women get prenatal care and gonorrhea infection can happen at any point in pregnancy, ocular prophylaxis in all newborns continues to be necessary. This recommendation statement is consistent with recommendations from other organizations in the United States.