Early-onset GBS infection in babies (0-6 days of life)

In the UK, up to two-thirds of GBS disease is early onset (apparent within the first week).

Early onset GBS infection usually presents as sepsis with pneumonia. These “early-onset” infections are usually apparent at or soon after birth, with the typical signs of early-onset GBS infection including:

  • Grunting, noisy breathing, not breathing at all, moaning, or seems to be working hard to breathe when you look at the chest or tummy.
  • Be very sleepy and/or unresponsive
  • Inconsolable crying
  • Be unusually floppy
  • Not feeding well or not keeping milk down
  • Have a high or low temperature (if parents have a thermometer), and/or be hot or cold to the touch
  • Have changes in their skin colour (including blotchy skin)
  • Have an abnormally fast or slow heart rate or breathing rate
  • Have low blood pressure (identified by tests done in hospital)
  • Have low blood sugar (identified by tests done in hospital)

Most early-onset GBS infections show symptoms within the first 12 hours after birth so will often be identified at the maternity unit.

The rate of early-onset GBS infection in the UK and Republic of Ireland increased from 0.48 per 1,000 live births in 2000, to 0.57 per 1,000 live births in 2014/5 (click here for more info).

Most early-onset GBS infections are potentially preventable when Mums whose babies are at raised risk of developing these infections are given appropriate intravenous antibiotics in labour.

Risk-based prevention guidelines were introduced in the UK in November 2003 which had been expected to bring about a fall in early-onset GBS infections of between 50-60%.

If you have any history of group B Strep and need to seek medical advice for your baby during their first 3 months of life, do mention group B Strep to the doctor.