Information on testing

UK guidelines currently recommend a ‘risk factor’ approach to establish which women should be offered antibiotics in labour to prevent group B Strep (GBS) infection in their newborn babies (click here for more information). Yet the rate of GBS infection in babies is continuing to rise, not fall. Over 60% of newborn babies with GBS infection have no known risk factors – the only risk factor is the mother unknowingly carrying GBS.

Carrying GBS has no symptoms so testing is the only way to find out if you are carrying GBS. If you are, steps can be taken to stop your newborn baby developing GBS infection. Routine screening of all pregnant women for GBS carriage is not currently recommended by the UK National Screening Committee.

The ECM (enriched culture medium) test is currently the best test available for detecting GBS carriage. This method is recommended by the UK Standards for Microbiology Investigations B58 (click here to download) but it is not yet widely available within the NHS.

Below is more information about testing for group B Strep carriage, including where to obtain GBS-specific tests (ECM tests) that follow the UK Standards.