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What is Group B Streptococcus?

Since the 1970s, group B Streptococcus (GBS) has been recognised as the primary cause of bacterial infection in newborn babies, resulting in disease at birth and up to 3 months of age.
Up to a third of all men and women carry GBS in their intestines without symptoms and roughly a quarter of women of childbearing age carry GBS in the vagina at any one time. GBS is a normal body commensal (an organism that lives on another without harming it). A positive swab result for GBS means a woman is colonised with GBS at the time the swab was taken – not that she or her baby will become ill.

GBS colonisation is normal and does not require treatment with antibiotics. The time when antibiotics are effective against GBS infection in newborn babies is when they are given intravenously (through a vein) to a pregnant woman when she goes into labour or her waters break.

(If GBS is found in the urine, this should be treated at the time of diagnosis with oral antibiotics and the treatment repeated if necessary until urine tests come back clear. This is also an indication that the pregnant woman should be offered intravenous antibiotics once labour starts or her waters break.)

Medical research shows the prevention measures described in these pages stop GBS infections developing in babies in at least 6 out of every potential 10 cases – this saves lives!

To order the GBS screening kit FREE of charge from MumStuff click here.

Reproduced with kind permission of Group B Strep Support.

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