Mums-to-be could carry bug28th November 2006
The NHS is being urged to offer mothers-to-be a simple test for Group B Streptococcus (GBS) that could cause brain damage or even death in their unborn child.
GBS affects more infants than Down's syndrome or spina bifida – but research shows most mothers have never heard of it. It is the primary cause of bacterial infection in newborns. Every year around 700 are infected with it and around 10 per cent of those will die from septicaemia caused by the bacteria.
A third of all adults carry the bacterium without any ill effects, but it can be fatal to foetuses and babies.
GBS is passed immediately prior to or during birth, and can also cause premature births, stillbirths and infections in the mother.
The NHS now plans to screen mothers who fall into certain high-risk categories, such as having had a baby previously infected or showing signs of StrepB in urine, following guidelines issued by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
The only test currently available on the NHS is thought to be only around 50 per cent accurate, but a more accurate test is available privately for around £32 could be made available on the NHS for around £10.
The test routinely carried out in America and Australia could dramatically reduce the rates – allowing women with the bacteria to take antibiotics should ensure that the baby is unaffected.
The screening programme has brought down the GBS infant infection rate by 75 per cent in both countries, while Spain saw rates drop by 86 per cent.
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