What is the test for Group B Streptococcus?
Testing for Group B Streptococcus (Group B Strep or GBS) is not routinely available through the NHS, unlike countries such as the USA, France, Germany, Poland, and many others.
Strepelle use the international ‘gold standard’ ECM method for testing for Group B Strep carriage.
The test is an easy to use home-to-laboratory test recommended from 35 weeks gestation. Although GBS carriage can come and go, this typically happens over periods of months, not hours or days. The Strepelle test is highly predictive of whether you will be carrying GBS for the next 5 weeks which, when testing at 35-37 weeks, is when you are most likely to go into labour. Once the laboratory has received the completed swap samples taken from the rectum and vagina, reults will be sent in 3 days via text message or through the post if your chosen option.
On average, one newborn baby a week dies from Group B Strep infection.
What is Group B Strep?
20% to 30% of pregnant women unknowingly carry Group B Strep bacteria, usually without harm or symptoms. But it causes meningitis, sepsis or pneumonia in more than 500 newborn babies a year. It is the most common cause of life-threatening infection in newborn babies and meningitis in babies up to the age of 3 months, passing from mother to baby around labour and birth.
How to test for Group B Strep in pregnancy?
The ECM test (Enriched Culture Medium test) is a highly sensitive international ‘gold standard’ test used for detecting Group B Strep carriage, recognised in Public Health England’s UK Standard used as standard for decades in many developed countries.
You can get tested from 35 weeks into your pregnancy to find out if you are carrying the bacterium. A positive result means that you will be offered intravenous antibiotics in labour which are very effective at preventing GBS infection during the vital first hours and days of life.
The NHS rarely offer the ECM test although half of UK maternity units offer some testing for GBS carriage it is usually a much less sensitive method that will miss up to half of carriers. GBS infection in newborns born to women carrying Group B Strep can be reduced by over 80% by giving intravenous antibiotics (usually penicillin) during labour. But, Group B Strep can show no symptoms. Antibiotics are offered to women who know they are carrying Group B Strep late in pregnancy.
In the UK, one in 10 babies sick with Group B Strep infection dies. One in 20 survivors of Group B Strep infection suffer long-term problems. Five in 10 survivors of Group B Strep meningitis suffer long-term mental and physical problems, including cerebral palsy.