July is international Group B Strep (GBS) awareness month. GBS is the most common cause of life-threatening infection in newborn babies. On average in the UK, two babies a day develop GBS infection; one baby per week dies from GBS and one baby per week survives with long term disability.
What is GBS?
GBS is a natural occurring bacteria carried in 20-25% of women in the UK, without causing any symptoms or harm to the carrier. If a woman is a GBS carrier during pregnancy there is a risk of transmission to her baby during childbirth which could cause Early Onset GBS (EOGBS infection). EOGBS is likely to present as sepsis and pneumonia within 0-6 days after birth.
How is the risk of EOGBS reduced?
Most developed countries offer all pregnant women a test for GBS carriage at around 35-37 weeks gestation, and intravenous antibiotics are offered to those who test positive. Countries adopting this approach have seen their rates of EOGBS fall by 71-86%. The UK does not routinely screen for GBS on the NHS, testing is only offered on a risk-based approach such as:
• A mother who has had a previous baby develop GBS infection
• Is in confirmed pre-term labour
• Has had GBS confirmed in her current pregnancy
• Is pyrexial (Temperature over 30°C or greater) or any other signs of maternal infection
• Carried GBS in a previous pregnancy
This risk-based approach is a poor predictor for which babies will develop infection and has led to an increase in EOGBS. If GBS is found in your pregnancy you will be offered intravenous antibiotics in established labour which dramatically reduces the risk of GBS infection.
Less than 50% of pregnant women in the UK are aware of GBS. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommend that all pregnant women are informed. Most EOGBS infections are preventable, however the only way to know if you carry GBS is to take the test.
Why take the risk when you can take the test?
Strepelle is an easy to use 'gold standard' Enriched Culture Medium (ECM) test which can be taken in the comfort of your own home. The ECM test has been found to be a good predictor of GBS carriage status for the 5 weeks following testing. The aim is to test in the 5 weeks before you go into labour and give birth which is why it is recommended to test from 35 weeks gestation. Once samples are taken and sent back to us, results are received within 3 working days.