Up to a third of GBS infections in babies are late-onset, occurring after the baby’s first 6 days, usually as meningitis with sepsis. It is uncommon after a baby reaches one month old and very rare after age three months.
Typical signs of late-onset group B Strep infection are similar to those associated with early-onset infection and may include signs associated with meningitis such as:
- Being irritable with high pitched or whimpering cry, or moaning;
- Blank, staring or trance-like expression;
- Floppy, may dislike being handled, be fretful;
- Tense or bulging fontanelle (soft spot on babies’ heads);
- Turns away from bright light;
- Involuntary stiff body or jerking movements; and/or
- Pale, blotchy skin.
Currently there are no known ways of preventing late-onset GBS infections, so speedy identification of the signs of these infections is vital for early diagnosis and treatment. A vaccine is in development, but will take many years before being available.
The rate of late-onset GBS infection in the UK and Republic of Ireland increased from 0.24 per 1,000 live births in 2000, to 0.37 per 1,000 live births in 2014/5 (click here for more info).
Although late-onset GBS infection usually presents as sepsis, pneumonia and/or meningitis, it can also present as osteomyelitis (bone infection) and septic arthritis (joint infection).
It is not well understood why some babies develop late-onset group B Strep infection, and others don’t.
Research has also shown that late-onset GBS infection is associated with the mother carrying GBS, although only around half of the mothers of babies who later developed late-onset GBS infection tested positive for group B Strep during the pregnancy. Late-onset GBS infection is also associated with the mother being very young (under 20) and the baby being born preterm (before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy).
You can download our poster highlighting the most common signs of GBS infection in babies here.