My baby has Group B Strep infection, What does this mean?
Group B Strep is a naturally occurring bacteria carried by around 20 – 30% of UK adults in the gut and/or vagina and carriers of the infection have no signs or symptoms. Babies born to mums who are colonised with group B Strep are at high risk of becoming infected.
Group B Strep infection occurs most often in babies shortly before, during or after birth. Young babies are particularly at risk from group B Strep infections because their immune systems are immature.
Group B Strep infection causes septicaemia, pneumonia and meningitis. After the first 6 days of life, group B Strep infection is uncommon and it is very rare after the age of 3 months however, it is the most common cause of severe infection in new born babies and the most common cause of bacterial meningitis in babies younger than 3 months.
How is group B Strep infection diagnosed?
Group B Strep infection is diagnosed following a blood or urine test or sometimes by testing spinal fluid. Regrettably, none of the tests for group B Strep infection in new born babies are 100% reliable and occasionally, the tests give false negative results. This means that blood cultures are negative, even though the baby has signs consistent with group B Strep infection. If swabs from the baby’s skin and/or the mother are positive for group B Strep and a blood marker called a CRP is raised, this indicates the presence of infection. When this happens doctors may make a presumed diagnosis of group B Strep infection, based on the baby’s clinical history on examination.
Early onset group B Strep infection
Two thirds of babies who develop group B Strep infection develop signs in their first 6 days of life and of these, almost 9 out of 10 show signs within 12 hours of birth. Early onset group B Strep infection babies usually develop septicaemia or pneumonia and less frequently it shows as meningitis.
Often an infected baby shows signs of having difficulty breathing at, or within a few hours of delivery and may need additional oxygen support.
Early onset group B Strep infection is more frequently associated with prematurity, ruptured membranes (waters breaking) for more than 18 hours prior to the birth, mum having a fever in labour and with mum carrying group B Strep.
Signs of early onset group B Strep infection in new born babies include:-
- Rapid breathing or stopping breathing;
- Making grunting noises;
- Poor feeding;
- Being abnormally drowsy;
- Being irritable;
- High/low temperature;
- High/low heart rate;
- Low blood pressure;
- Low blood sugar;
- Pale, blotchy skin
Late onset group B Strep infection
Late onset group B Strep infection occurs after 6 days of life. It is uncommon after a baby is 1 month old and very rare after 3 months old and usually presents as meningitis and septicaemia.
Typical signs are similar to those of early onset infection but may also include signs associated with meningitis such as:-
- Being irritable with a high pitched or whimpering cry or moaning;
- Blank, staring or trance-like expression;
- Tense or bulging fontanelle;
- Turns away from bright light;
- Involuntary stiff moving body or jerking movements
Group B Strep infection can be effectively treated with prompt intravenous antibiotic therapy and intensive care. The minimum recommended length of IV antibiotic treatment for babies diagnosed with group B Strep infection is usually at least 7 days if meningitis is not present and at least 14 days if it is. If your baby has developed other medical problems in addition to group B Strep infection (for example; jaundice) this will also need to be treated.
How will group B Strep affect my baby?
With prompt treatment, most babies with group B Strep infection make a full recovery. However, approximately 50% of babies who recover from Group B Strep meningitis will have long term problems and in fact in 1 in 8 of these cases, these will be severe. It is for this reason that prompt treatment is vital.
For more information on group B Strep, we recommend you consult your Midwife or Obstetrician or visit www.gbss.org.uk
If you or your baby have experienced medical errors during your pregnancy, labour or shortly after your baby’s birth which may have resulted in serious injury and you would like to discuss this with no obligation, please contact Elizabeth Smith at Wolferstans, Solicitors on 01752 292309 or firstname.lastname@example.org