Treating GBS infection in babies

GBS infection needs to be treated promptly and aggressively: high doses of intravenous (through a vein) antibiotics should be given as soon as possible and antibiotic therapy should not be stopped early – intravenous antibiotic therapy should be continued for at least 7 days or 14 days if meningitis is present. With this, the majority of babies with GBS infection can be treated successfully with penicillin, although some will require all the expertise of a neonatal intensive care unit (and sick babies may have to be transferred to a different hospital with specialised facilities).

Sadly, even with full intensive care, approximately one out of every 16 infected babies will die from their GBS infection (around 5% of babies with early-onset and around 8% with late-onset GBS infection).

Before discharge, a full work up should be done for a baby who has recovered from GBS infection comprising:

  • Full examination by paediatrician
  • Review of clinical parameters
  • FBC (full blood count) and differential
  • CRP (C reactive protein)

If a baby develops GBS infection and is one of a multiple birth, then the same antibiotics should be given intravenously to the other baby/babies as a preventative measure, even if they appear well.

A baby who has recovered from a GBS infection is at low but slightly increased risk of re-infection (around 1-3%). There is no established evidence to recommend any specific treatments to prevent recurrent GBS. A few practitioners may prescribe a daily penicillin dose for the baby for the first 3 months of life in the belief that it may prevent group B Strep infection. There is no evidence to support this practice, although penicillin given in this way has been shown to reduce the risk of infection with another related bacterium (pneumococcus) in individuals who have lost their spleens. Although this should not be routine practice, it is our medical advisory panel’s view that this may be considered to prevent reinfection with group B Strep in those who develop more than one episode of infection. This would need to be discussed with the baby’s paediatrician.

For information leaflets about group B Strep, click here.

* Image taken from Wikimedia Commons