Posted by Kerstin Scheel, Partner
What you need to know about Group B Strep
This month we are raising awareness of this common and avoidable condition which can have devastating consequences for children at birth.
Group B Streptococcus (or Group B Strep) is a bacterium commonly found in approximately 25% of people, usually in the digestive system and/or genital tract. It is normally harmless and most of us don’t know we are carriers, as it does not usually have any symptoms.
However, Group B Strep may become problematic during birth as the infection can be passed to the child. A small number of babies will develop Group B Strep (GBS) infection. Those babies who do contract the GBS infection can develop meningitis, which then poses a risk of brain injury and, more tragically, death.
How do I know if I carry GBS bacteria, and what can be done about it?
The ECM test (Enriched Culture Medium test) is the international ‘gold standard’ for detecting group B strep carriage. It is highly sensitive and has been used as a standard for decades in many developed countries.
However, tests for Group B strep are not widely available on the NHS, and it depends where you live and what your Local Health Authority provide as to what test you will get; it is best to ask your midwife.
Fortunately, a simple and affordable testing kit can be purchased for around £35 please see the recommended testing providers on the Group Strep B Support website.
If I carry this bacteria what should I do, and how should I be treated?
The best treatment is to prevent any infection being passed to your baby upon delivery. This is achieved by giving intravenous antibiotics (to the mother) during labour. When given from the start of labour or waters breaking (and ideally 4 hours before delivery), this is very effective at preventing GBS infection in the baby. Sadly, waiting to give antibiotics to the baby after delivery will sometimes be too late.
Throughout the course of this month, we will be doing our part to try and help raise awareness by writing further blogs and tweets. If you feel that you would like more information on Group B strep or you would like to help raise awareness, please call the Group B Strep Support helpline on 01444 416 176 or visit gbss.org.uk.
Take a look at the infographic we worked on with GBSS, to find out more about the key stats for Group B Strep in the UK:
If you have any questions for Kerstin about Group B Strep, you can contact her by email or phone
01225 730 207 Email us
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