The Group B Strep in Pregnancy & Babies Virtual Conference takes place on Wednesday 2nd June 2021. View the full programme here and book your conference tickets here.
Group B Strep is usually a harmless bacterium and carrying it has no symptoms. However, when passed to a baby around birth, it can cause serious infection. Group B Strep is actually the most common cause of life-threatening infection in newborn babies in the UK.
Group B Strep infections typically present as sepsis, pneumonia and meningitis. GBS is now the most common cause of meningitis in children under five. On average in the UK:
- Two babies a day develop GBS infection
- One baby a week dies from their GBS infection and
- One survivor recovers with long-term disability including cerebral palsy, brain damage, blindness, deafness and amputations
Group B Strep infections in babies are usually described as being of early or late onset. Early-onset group B Strep infections present in the first 6 days of life, with late onset presenting between aged 7-90 days. Even with the best medical care, between 5-10% of these very sick babies die, and approximately 10% of the survivors will have life-long health issues.
Current Prevention Strategies
Although at present there are no known ways of preventing late-onset group B Strep infection, most of the early-onset infections could be prevented. Research has shown that giving intravenous antibiotics (usually penicillin) in labour to women carrying group B Strep can prevent 80-90% of these early-onset group B Strep infection.
How to identify which women to offer the antibiotics differs around the world. In most developed countries, women are offered an antenatal screening test at around 35-37 weeks’ gestation and, when the result is positive, then offered the intravenous antibiotics in labour. In the UK, we have since 2003 followed a risk-based prevention strategy recommended by the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (RCOG) (Hughes et al., 2017), where women are offered the intravenous antibiotics in labour if they have:
- Previously had a baby with group B Strep disease (early or late onset)
- Had group B Strep detected through bacteriological investigation during pregnancy (for example, a urine infection or a swab taken to investigate a vaginal discharge)*
- Are in preterm labour
- Have a suspected maternal intrapartum infection, including suspected chorioamnionitis and/or pyrexia
* Where group B Strep was detected in a previous pregnancy, the mother should be offered the options of intravenous antibiotics in labour this pregnancy, or bacteriological testing in late pregnancy with the offer of intravenous antibiotics in labour if still positive.
Despite this, the rate of early-onset group B Strep infection has risen since the introduction of these guidelines (from 0.35 per 1,000 live births in England, Wales & Northern Ireland in 2003, to 0.53 per 1,000 live births in 2019, a 51% increase).
Major UK trial of screening
To establish what is the best way to reduce early-onset group B Strep infection in the UK, a new trial, GBS3, has been funded by the National Institute for Health Research. This will compare the current risk-based strategy with two testing approaches a) a lab-based Enriched Culture Medium (ECM) test at 3-5 weeks before the expected birth date and b) a bedside test at the start of labour.
Delayed like so many trials during the pandemic, the GBS3 trial is due to restart this month, and the results are expected in 2023. The results will be used to will be used to inform the future of group B Strep prevention across the UK.
Information for families
The RCOG recommends that all pregnant women should be provided with an appropriate information leaflet about group B Strep. A leaflet, “Group B Streptococcus (GBS) in pregnancy and newborn babies” (Group B Strep Support and Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists, 2017), co-written by the RCOG and Group B Strep Support is available to download from their websites.
Despite this, relatively few expectant parents have heard of group B Strep, and there are many myths and misunderstandings regarding what group B Strep is, what it does and how most of these infections can be prevented.
Update for health professionals
If you’re reading this and you:
- Wonder if it would be better if the UK screened pregnant women for group B Strep
- Get asked for group B Strep tests by pregnant women, or private tests
- Are uncertain what sort of test should be done to test for group B Strep carriage
- Want to know what the rest of the world does about group B Strep
- Have vaguely heard about the GBS3 trial but want to know more
then the one-day virtual conference “Group B Strep in Pregnancy & Babies” on Wednesday 2nd June 2021 could be made for you.
Approved by the Royal College of Pathologists for 6 CPD credits, the conference is being run by Group B Strep Support, the UK’s leading charity working to stop group B Strep infection in babies. It will get you right up to date with the key issues on group B Strep during pregnancy, labour and the early months after a baby’s birth.
This is a must-attend event for anyone interested in group B Strep and maternity and neonatal care. World-leading experts will be sharing their knowledge, expertise, and the latest research.
The conference will be co-chaired by Kathryn Gutteridge, President of the Royal College of Midwives, and Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, with expert speakers from:
- Public Health England
- UK National Screening Committee
- World Health Organisation
- GBS3 Trial
- Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists
- NHS Resolution
- Wellcome Sanger Institute
- London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
- St George’s University
Speakers will cover the history of group B Strep prevention, what the UK does and how it works, why screening isn’t currently recommended, the pros and cons of different testing technologies, the latest research into group B Strep, the state of vaccine research, and so much more.
The full programme will be recorded and made available to view on demand after the event to delegates.
Who should attend?
• Midwives and Matrons
• Neonatologists and Paediatricians
• Public Health Specialists
• Maternity Educators
• Other interested stakeholders
The recent press coverage, the ground-breaking GBS3 Trial and the focus on group B Strep by the Health Minister make this conference especially timely.
Tickets start at £30, so register your place today.
Hughes, R. G. et al. (2017) ‘Prevention of Early-onset Neonatal Group B Streptococcal Disease: Green-top Guideline No. 36’, BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 124(12), pp. e280–e305. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.14821.
Group B Strep Support and Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (2017) Group B Streptococcus (GBS) in pregnancy and newborn babies. Available at: https://gbss.org.uk/product/free-leaflet-group-b-strep-and-pregnancy/
(Accessed: 17 October 2019).