Newborn Group B Strep Infection is Highly Preventable

By Kristine Hartvigsen on July 6th, 2017

Group B Streptococcus infection does not discriminate. It can devastate the lives of celebrities, high-level government officials, and ordinary citizens of any educational or socioeconomic status.

About 22 years ago, it brought tragedy to ex-FBI Director James Comey and his wife, Patrice Failor. Their precious newborn, Collin, died just 9 days after being born with Group B Streptococcus (GBS) infection.

Patrice Failor later publicly campaigned for more widespread testing of pregnant women for GBS so those infected might be treated so they do not pass along the infection to their newborns during delivery.

About 1 in 4 healthy women carries GBS in their bodies, but they have no symptoms to cause them alarm. Although somewhat rare, it is possible for infected mothers to pass GBS to their newborns during childbirth. GBS infection can cause serious complications for infants, including pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs), meningitis (inflammation around the brain and spinal cord), or sepsis (bloodstream infection). About 3% of infected babies die.

Fortunately, GBS infection of newborns is highly preventable. OB/GYNs routinely test their patients for GBS as part of their prenatal care regimen. Because GBS bacteria normally live in a woman’s gastrointestinal tract, they are prone to continual regeneration and can return even after a round of antibiotics. Therefore, testing is most accurate within five weeks of a woman’s due date. If she tests positive for GBS, the mother usually is given prophylactic antibiotics throughout her labor and delivery.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the likelihood of having a baby with GBS is only 1 in 4,000 if antibiotics are administered during labor and childbirth. Without antibiotics, the chance jumps to 1 in 200. Nonetheless, GBS remains the most common cause of severe yet preventable infection in newborns.

July is Group B Streptococcus Awareness Month. This is a great time to read up on the subject and direct any questions or concerns to your physician.

This blog provides general information and discussion about healthcare-related subjects. The content and linked materials provided are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader is an expectant mother with a medical concern, she should consult with an appropriately licensed physician or healthcare provider.


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