Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is a common bacterium normally carried in 20-40% of adults in the UK and 25% of pregnant women carry GBS in their vagina. GBS carriage seldom causes any symptoms and is not an STD although it can be passed from person to person through sexual or skin contact.
Answers to the questions we get asked the most about how to use the Strepelle test kit.
- What is Group B Strep?
- Why should I be tested for GBS?
Group B streptococcus is a leading cause of early- onset neonatal infection, resulting in sepsis, pneumonia and meningitis in the UK. Early onset Group B Strep (EOGBS) currently affects 1 in 1750 babies and 1 in 400 if the mother is carrying group B strep. EOGBS can be life threatening, unfortunately there is no way to tell which baby will be affected.
- Does GBS carry any symptoms in pregnancy?
Carrying GBS is asymptomatic, meaning there are no symptoms associated with GBS. The only way to find out whether you are carrying it is through testing.
- Is GBS testing available on the NHS?
Unfortunately routine screening for GBS is not currently available on the NHS although many other countries routinely screen for GBS and have seen a significant reduction in GBS infections such as:
Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Dubai, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Poland, Singapore, Spain, Slovenia, Switzerland, Taiwan and the USA.
- Why should I get a Group B strep test?
Testing is the only way to identify whether or not you are carrying GBS. If GBS is detected during pregnancy steps can be taken to minimise the risk of your newborn developing the GBS infection.
- When should I take the Group B strep test?
It is advised to test between 35-37 weeks as our test has a high predictive indicator of whether you will be carrying GBS in the next 5 weeks which is the time you are more likely to go into labour.
- Is it true that GBS carriage can come and go, so isn't worth testing for?
GBS carriage can come and go, however GBS status does not come and go daily. Studies show that the result from a GBS test is very unlikely to change over the next 5 weeks which is why it is advisable to test from 35- 37 weeks in pregnancy. This gives you the best chance of knowing what your GBS status is when you go into labour.
- Do I have to test between 35-37 weeks?
No. Testing before or after 35-37 weeks of pregnancy will show whether or not you are carrying GBS when the test was taken. GBS carriage can come and go, though the result from a Strepelle test is highly predictive for the next 4-5 weeks.
If the test is taken before 5 weeks before birth, your GBS carriage status may have changed by the time of delivery. If the test is taken after 37 weeks it will still give you a good indication whether you are carrying GBS for the next 5 weeks, but the results may not come back in time so you could go into labour without knowing your GBS status.
Testing between 35-37 weeks is the best way to predict if you will be carrying GBS when you are most likely to go into labour- the next 5 weeks.
- I am over 37 weeks pregnant, can I still test for GBS?
Yes you can. Testing after 37 weeks will still give you a result that is highly predictive of your GBS status for the next 5 weeks, However there is a risk that you could deliver your baby before you receive your results.
- Is the Strepelle test reliable?
Yes! We use the Enriched Culture Medium test which is recognised as the gold standard for detecting GBS carriage. When the result is performed within 5 weeks of delivery a negative test is 96% predictive to remain negative at the time of delivery and positive test is 87% predictive to remain positive at the time of delivery.
- How do I take the test?
Taking the test is simple, and involves collecting samples with 2 swabs one from the vagina and one from the rectum. Clear detailed instructions are provided in the kit.
Post your samples on the day that you take them, in time to catch the post. We advise that you collect your samples at a suitable time for posting back to us on Monday to Thursday. This is to avoid sample strength deterioration in the postal system over the weekend.
- I'm taking antibiotics, does this affect the test results?
Yes, if you are or have recently been taking antibiotics, this may affect the result of a test for Group B Strep carriage. Ideally there should be a gap of at least 7-10 days between finishing a course of antibiotics and taking the test.
- How does the test work?
Strepelle uses the most accurate test currently on the market designed specifically to detect Group B Strep carriage. It is a home to laboratory test, which means that you are getting access to the accuracy and reliability of a professional test from the convenience of your own home.
Once you have purchased Strepelle your test will arrive in the post. The test is quick and easy to conduct and all you need to do is collect two swab samples. Everything is included in the kit and simple step-by-step instructions will guide you through the process. The Freepost envelope will allow you to post the samples back to our laboratory.
- How are results received?
SMS, email or by post – the choice is yours. You will be asked for your preference in the form provided.
- How long will I have to wait to receive results?
Results will be sent within 3 days of receiving the swab samples. You will receive the result through the post, and you have the option also to receive the result by test message.
- What do my test results mean?
Whatever the test result, it’s good news – if negative for GBS carriage, that’s great- the chance of you becoming positive in the next 5 weeks is very small. If positive, it’s also a good thing as the level of risk is then known. This allows you to contact your healthcare professionals so that you can be offered intravenous antibiotics in labour. These are very effective at preventing GBS infection in the newborn during the vital first days of life.
If your result is positive you should contact your midwife or healthcare provider as soon as possible.
- I received a positive result what now?
Whilst we understand a positive result may be concerning to you, the good news is that you can help protect your baby. The first step is to provide your Strepelle results letter to your Midwife or health care provider who will ensure you will be offered intravenous antibiotics when you are in labour.
- What is the preventative medicine against GBS?
If GBS is detected during pregnancy, you should be offered intravenous antibiotics at the onset of labour and usually at 4-hourly intervals until your baby is born. This will significantly reduce the risk of your baby developing early onset GBS infection by 85/90% cutting the risk from 1 in 400 to 1 in 4,000.
- Must I have antibiotics if I am GBS positive?
Whilst it is good to receive antibiotics to reduce the risk of your baby developing GBS infection the decision to have antibiotics in labour is your choice. If you decide not to have antibiotics inform your health professionals who will be able to monitor your baby to watch for any signs of infection, particularly in the first 12-24 hours after birth.
- Are antibiotics harmful to me or my baby?
There is a very small risk of developing severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) after receiving antibiotics. some authorities quote:
• 1 in 10,000 of the mother developing a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) and
• 1 in 100,000 of the mother developing fatal anaphylaxis, resulting in her death.
Studies from both the UK and USA show that in fact the above statistics are likely to be significantly over-estimated. As you will be in hospital when you are having the intravenous antibiotics, you will be closely monitored and your health professionals will be able to provide treatment to reverse anaphylaxis were it to occur. There have been studies that suggest an effect on the baby’s microbiome, but these findings have not been consistent and are likely to be temporary in most cases. The long term effect, if any, of these changes is currently unclear but is likely to be very small compared with the harms from early onset GBS infection.
- Do I need to test if I am undergoing a planned Cesarean Section?
It is still valuable to test for GBS. Although a C-section reduces the risk of GBS infection it does not eliminate it completely as rarely GBS can cross intact amniotic membranes to cause infection in the baby. More importantly, if you carry GBS and your labour starts or waters break before you have your c-section, you should be offered the intravenous antibiotics as soon as possible,and have them repeated at regulat intervals (4 hourly for penicillin) until delivery.
- I have not received my results in the time frame advised. What do I do?
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