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Group B Strep Awareness Month

9 July, 2013

Group B Strep Awareness Month

National charity Group B Strep Support is campaigning for greater awareness and better prevention of Group B Strep infections this July. Posted: 9 July 2013 by Clare Wilson

National charity Group B Strep Support is campaigning for greater awareness and better prevention of Group B Strep infections this July.

Group B Strep Support

During the annual international Group B Strep Awareness Month, the charity is urging pregnant women to get informed about GBS and consider testing with the ‘A Simple Test to Save A Life’ initiative.

Carrying GBS during pregnancy is recognised as an important risk factor for GBS infection in newborn babies, however, according to Group B Strep Support, testing for the infection is not routinely offered in NHS hospitals.

Throughout July, a ‘Gold Standard’ ECM (Enriched Culture Medium) test is to be offered to all pregnant women. 

This test, taken between 35 to 37 weeks of pregnancy, best predicts GBS carriage in labour. 

Those women where GBS is identified, and others known to be a higher risk, can be offered antibiotics in labour to minimise the risk of GBS infection in their newborn babies. 

The use of antibiotics at this stage reduces the risk of GBS infection in newborns from around a one in 300 risk to less than one in 6000.

Group B Streptococcus (Group B Strep/GBS) bacterium is carried by approximately 25% of women and, although it causes no problems for most babies, is the leading cause of sepsis and meningitis in newborns.

The reported number of GBS related infections has increased from 229 to 281 between 2003 and 2011 (up by 23%) and the rate per 1000 live births has increased from 0.37 to 0.38 (up by 3%) since the introduction of the RCOG 2003 prevention guidelines.

These increases come despite the expectation of significant falls in Group B Strep infections in newborn babies following these guidelines.

Long term, Group B Strep Support is campaigning for information about GBS to be routinely given to all women as part of their antenatal care, for sensitive testing for GBS to be made freely available within the NHS and offered to every pregnant woman.

Sir Bob Russell MP has tabled a Parliamentary Early Day Motion supporting GBS Awareness month. There is also an e-petition (ending on 31 December 2013) asking The Department of Health to ensure women are routinely offered testing for group B Strep in every pregnancy.

For more information on Group B Strep Awareness Month, visit www.gbss.org.uk.


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