Why GBSS exists
Group B Strep Support (GBSS) exists to provide up to date and evidence based information on group B Strep to new and expectant parents and their health professionals, and support to affected families. GBSS is the only UK charity dedicated to working to stop group B Strep infections, including meningitis, in babies. Our goal is the eradication of group B Strep infection in babies. We are still far from that – the UK rate of group B Strep infection in babies rose by 31% overall, and by 19% in the potentially preventable early-onset (age 0-6 days) group B Strep infections between 2000 and 2015.
We want every woman to be informed about group B Strep and offered the opportunity to have a sensitive (ECM) test to detect GBS carriage late in pregnancy. The results of these tests can then be used to inform as to what further treatment may be needed, if any, to minimise the risk of GBS infection in the newborn baby. Unfortunately, sensitive ECM tests are not yet widely available within the NHS (click here for more information about the tests available), although they are available privately (and cost approximately £35).
Longer term, vaccination could prevent more cases of GBS infection than any other strategy, including preventing preterm labour and stillbirths caused by GBS infection, post-delivery GBS infection in the mother and late-onset GBS infection in the baby. Vaccination would also avoid allergic reactions to the recommended antibiotics and concern about the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Moreover, there are no indications of hazard in this approach. Investment into developing a vaccine against GBS infection is urgently needed and should be prioritised.
At present, with no vaccine available, the view of the charity and its medical advisory panel is that the best way to prevent group B Strep infections in newborn babies in the UK is:
- Every pregnant woman should be given information on group B Strep as a routine part of her antenatal care.
- Every low-risk pregnant woman to be offered a sensitive test for GBS colonisation at 35-37 weeks of pregnancy without charge (and, where these tests are not freely available, all pregnant women should be told that these tests are available privately – click here for information on GBS test availability).
- Every higher-risk pregnant woman (those identified as carrying GBS, those who have had a baby with GBS disease, and those where recognised risk factors are present) to be offered intravenous antibiotics from the start of labour until delivery. For those women whose babies are at highest risk to be recommended to have intravenous antibiotics at the start of labour.
While we believe this would prevent more GBS infection, disability and death in newborn babies, it is the UK National Screening Committee’s responsibility to recommend for or against screening. Sadly, despite most developed countries using the screening approach to GBS prevention and seeing major reductions, the UK NSC has rejected international evidence. Their next planned review is 2019/20