Calls for Strep B tests for pregnant women

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A woman who lost her unborn baby as a result of the Strep B infection has called for routine testing to detect the presence of the bacteria.

Group B streptococcus is a bacteria that can be passed between the mother and child during a natural birth.

It is the most common cause of blood infections and meningitis in newborns and often causes the death of the baby.

Gillian Boyd said her pregnancy had been perfectly normal up until her baby was stillborn at full-term.

... "I knew ... I had to deliver a baby who wasn't going to cry."

... It was only after a post mortem examination that she found out her baby had died due an infection caused by Group B streptococcus.

"... if this bacteria is detected in a pregnant woman, that it can be easily prevented," ...

"... the UK National Screening Committee ... has kept under review the evidence for screening for ... (GBS) ... and following the most recent review in 2009 the NSC reaffirmed its advice that screening for GBS should not be offered.

... the efficacy of introducing a screening programme for Group B Streptococcus had not been proven.

"... the current recommended test for GBS carriage cannot reliably identify those women who would have an affected baby," ...

"This could result in a large number of women unnecessarily receiving intravenous antibiotics during labour, and there are potential risks associated with this."

... "It makes perfect sense to test, but you're in a situation where there's something like 75 babies a year are affected yet it would cost probably something in the region of millions of pounds to do the test.

The issue with the current method of testing is that it takes a couple of days to get results, so the test needs to be done at the end of pregnancy. However, GBS stays for a few weeks and then goes again, meaning a woman could screen positive at 36 weeks but not have GBS at birth, or vice versa. There are risks in having unnecessary antibiotics, but there are also risks in a woman who screens negative, who subsequently develops GBS but is treated as negative (not offered antibiotics). In some studies, a considerable number of babies have died of GBS infection following their birth to a supposedly GBS negative mother. Hence the unreliability of the test. However, it is the best test that we have available at the moment. A few hospitals offer a test that can be done in labour - with test results available in 1-2 hours - providing more relevant information regarding GBS status.