Carrying group B Strep
Group B Streptococcus (GBS or group B Strep) is a normal bacterium which is carried by 20-40% of UK adults, most commonly in the gut and in women in the vagina. Carrying group B Strep is usually without symptoms or side-effects.
Carrying GBS is perfectly normal and natural whether you are pregnant or not. Carrying GBS does not need treatment. GBS is not a sexually transmitted disease. Carrying GBS is not a disease at all.
A positive rectal or vaginal swab result for GBS means the person is carrying GBS at the time the samples were taken – not that they are ill.
Group B Strep in the urine
GBS detected in the urine usually means a GBS infection is present – a urinary tract infection caused by GBS should be treated at diagnosis with oral antibiotics and the treatment repeated until urine tests come back clear.
We know of no publication that convincingly demonstrates that carrying GBS causes vaginal symptoms.
Carrying GBS is not associated with any symptoms. To find out whether you are carrying GBS, you need to test and the sensitive ECM test is the ‘gold standard’ test for detecting GBS carriage.
Even when GBS is grown from a sample taken from the vagina, this means that the vagina was colonised with GBS when the swab was taken – it does not mean that GBS is the cause of any symptoms that prompted the test being done.
GBS infection in adults
GBS can occasionally cause infection in adults.
When GBS infection occurs in adults, it’s usually (but not always) in those with serious underlying medical conditions which reduce the effectiveness of the immune system; the elderly; and pregnant women. Although uncommon, GBS infection in adults displays a whole spectrum of severity, from easily treated to very serious, particularly in non-pregnant adults.
GBS infections in adults are usually skin and soft tissue infections (such as infection of skin ulcers caused by poor circulation and diabetes, or pressure sores in patients confined to bed), blood infections, pneumonia and urinary tract infections (such as kidney, bladder or prostate infections). GBS may also cause meningitis in adults, as well as bone infections and deep eye infections.
The overall rate of GBS bacteraemia (GBS detected from the blood) for 2018 was 4.2 per 100,000 population for England, Wales and Northern Ireland combined, with 11% more cases reported compared to 2015. Rates were highest in those aged less than one year (84.6 per 100,000 population). In adults, rates of GBS bacteraemia were highest in those aged 75 and over (13.0 per 100,000 in females and 16.3 per 100,000 in males).
Treating GBS infection in adults
Early recognition and treatment is important to cure GBS infection in adults. High doses of antibiotics such as penicillin should be administered and the full course taken.
Most GBS infection can be treated successfully, although some people will require all the expertise of intensive care facilities. Not all hospitals have such a facility and so some ill patients will have to be transferred to one with these specialised facilities.
GBS infections, especially the more deep-seated ones, require expert care, prolonged courses of antibiotics and sometimes more than one antibiotic at the same time. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to drain infected sites and remove damaged tissue. Due to the varied nature of these infections, it is impossible to generalise about what is the most appropriate treatment.
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