False Test Results Seen in Group B Strep (GBS) Screening

For further information, contact Melissa Maimann at Essential Birth Consulting. Link

A massive effort to test pregnant women for a deadly germ they can spread to their babies has yielded a bad surprise — a high rate of wrong test results that led some infants to miss out on treatment.

... the test missed more of the infections than would normally be expected. If the mothers had tested positive for the Group B strep bacteria, they would have been given antibiotics during labor to cut the chances of infecting their infants.

Group B strep is a common bacteria carried in the intestines or lower genital tract, and can be spread to babies during delivery. It's harmless to most adults but in newborns can lead to blood infections, pneumonia, meningitis, mental retardation or hearing and vision loss, and death.

It is a rare problem which occurs in less than 1 in 3,000 births ... the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and doctor groups ... recommend routine tests of all pregnant women.

No one is suggesting the screening program is a failure ... infant infections from Group B strep ... dipped another 27 percent.

... 250 infants out of nearly 7,700 were born with the infection ... And the antibiotics seemed to be very effective ...

But Schrag and others acknowledged that the false negatives were a disappointing surprise.

... the researchers calculated that they would see 44 to 86 cases of false negatives involving full-term infants. But the final study showed 116 cases — or about 60 percent of the infected full-term infants in the study were born to mothers who had been tested and mistakenly found clear of the infection.

The rest of the infected full-term babies were either not screened or were born to mothers who tested positive.

Timing may be an issue. It's recommended [to screen women] at 35 to 37 weeks into the pregnancy ... But Group B strep infections can come quickly ...

The article goes on to speak of a new vaccine!!!! These days, it seems there's a vaccine for everything.

A good point was raised by an obstetrician who mentioned that since group B strep is normal vaginal flora (present in 25% - 30% women at any given time), and since on only 1 of 400 colonized women is there a neonatal infection, the real question should be, "What is wrong with that one baby out of 400 that gets sick?"

Another aspect of care is the risk facor approach, which involves no routine screening, and offering antibiotics to women who fall into certain risk groups that are known to be associated with Group B Strep infection.

Melissa Maimann, Essential Birth Consulting 0400 418 448