New research, published in Clinical & Translational Immunology, suggest that certain a certain type of sugar – oligosaccharides – found in human milk (HMOs or Human Milk Oligosaccharides) may have a role in the prevention and clearance of maternal GBS colonisation during pregnancy. As the authors say:
“Once additional studies have been undertaken to validate these results, and definitively identify the HMO(s) involved in protection against GBS disease, a clinical application could be to use HMOs as a potential adjuvant to antibiotics for the treatment of GBS colonisation.”
Interesting findings indeed (you can read the full research paper here) which could, potentially, be used in the future to reduce GBS infection in babies – but it’s a small trial, and more research will be needed that shows definite benefit.
In the meantime, the UK needs to adopt international best practice for preventing group B Strep infection in newborn babies – routinely offering women tests specifically for GBS carriage late in pregnancy, with antibiotics offered in labour to carriers and those with other known risk factors. Countries that have done this have seen their GBS rates fall dramatically.
Despite the UK’s ‘risk factor’ prevention strategy introduced in 2003, the rate of GBS infection in newborn babies has not fallen for the past 10 years and has increased by 32%. And yet group B Strep is still not discussed with women in the UK as part of routine antenatal care, women are not routinely offered testing for GBS carriage, and if they are, the gold-standard test for GBS carriage, in use internationally for decades, is rarely available within the NHS.