The UK’s National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is set to begin a clinical trial to screen pregnant women for Group B Streptococcus (also called Group B strep or GBS). The trial will test the effectiveness of two types of GBS screening compared to no screening in 80 hospitals throughout England and Wales where there is currently no standard screening program in place. The NIHR-funded trial will be led by doctors from the University of Nottingham School of Medicine.
Group B streptococcus is a common type of bacteria, which live naturally in the intestines and the urinary and genital tracts of adults. Though typically harmless to adults, GBS can cause severe injuries to newborns if it is transferred from their mother during labor and delivery. According to the CDC, “A pregnant woman who tests positive for GBS bacteria and gets antibiotics during labor has only a 1 in 4,000 chance of delivering a baby who will develop GBS disease. If she does not receive antibiotics during labor, her chance of delivering a baby who will develop GBS disease is 1 in 200.” Newborn symptoms of GBS may include drowsiness, coughing, congestion, difficulty feeding, fever, irritability, or seizures. GBS can be life-threatening; 4-6% of babies who have GBS die from the infection. GBS can also lead to serious conditions, such as pneumonia, sepsis, or meningitis. Therefore, screening and diagnosis is critical.
If a mother tests positive for GBS (in the United States, GBS testing is typically administered between 35 and 37 weeks gestation), IV antibiotics should be administered during labor. Risk of passing the GBS infection to the infant is higher if the mother has chorioamnionitis or gives birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
Currently, UK obstetricians use a set of criteria to assess a woman’s probability of carrying the bacteria. A previous study showed this process to be inaccurate. The UK is one of the only countries in the developed world where there is currently no standard screening program for GBS, but this landmark trial may change that.
If you believe your baby suffered a GBS infection during labor or delivery, please contact our expert birth injury lawyers for help. Call us at 877-262-9767 to discuss your situation.
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