A group B Strep vaccine is on the horizon, and hopefully will be available in five to ten years.

This was the takeaway message from the first international conference on group B Strep, ISSAD, held in Cape Town, South Africa in February 2018.

Run jointly by the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, from 20-23 February, 242 delegates from 37 different countries gathered to listen to worldwide leaders in group B Strep and share ideas on how to progress to a GBS-disease-free population.

Our Chief Executive, Jane Plumb MBE, co-chaired a session on advocacy for GBS prevention strategies with Ajoke Sobanjo-ter Meulen, Global Lead for Maternal Immunization at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Jane gave a joint presentation with Professor Carol J Baker, who is commonly referred to as ‘the godmother of GBS prevention’ and whose passionate campaigning alongside the US non-profit Group B Strep Association led to routine screening for GBS in the USA.

Jane and Carol presented on the role of advocacy in GBS prevention strategies – Carol focussing on the role of advocacy of health professionals in the US introducing routine antenatal screening for group B Strep, and Jane about patient advocacy and its role in improving the UK’s risk-based approach.

I was honoured to share the presentation with Carol. She’s an inspiring woman who’s pushed tirelessly for improved prevention of group B Strep infection. Her work is pioneering.

Jane Plumb, Group B Strep Support

Three Mums shared how group B Strep has irrevocably changed their lives, Palisa and Lilianne from South Africa, and Birgitta from the UK.

Dan and Birgitta’s daughter, Natalie, was born in September 2017 and passed away at 7 days old from group B Strep infection. Had Birgitta been informed about group B Strep, tested and offered IV antibiotics in labour, it’s almost certain Natalie would be alive and well today. Read more of Dan and Birgitta’s story.

Jane also gave a poster presentation on the “Impacts of early-onset group B Strep infection – perspective from families”, outlining the key findings of the survey we conducted last year. Over 900 parents and carers of babies affected by early-onset GBS infection responded to the survey and you can download our poster here.

As you would expect at such an international conference, there was near-universal consensus from delegates that until a vaccine is available, antenatal screening to determine which women to offer antibiotics in labour is the best prevention strategy available, and much better than the risk-based approach used by the UK.

Presentations from the vaccine companies attending suggest a safe and effective vaccine is – hopefully – only 5 to 10 years away.

We’re very excited that ISSAD 2020 will be held in the UK. We look forward to a further update then from GSK, MinervaX, and Pfizer on how their vaccines are progressing, and to the day when group B Strep infection in babies is a thing of the past.

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