Derriford Hospital trialling routine testing for Group B Strep

Derriford Hospital trialling routine testing for Group B Strep

There has been promising news recently that pregnant women receiving maternity care from Derriford Hospital will be routinely offered a test for Group B Streptococcus (GBS) as part of an important new research study. The study intends to evaluate whether routinely testing pregnant women to see if they carry GBS will reduce the risk of infection in newborn babies and is more effective than only offering a test based on risk factors.

GBS is a common bacterium carried in the vagina and rectum of around 1 in 4 women in the UK. Whilst the bacterium is symptomless and not harmful to carriers, it can occasionally cause serious infections to newborn babies, and very rarely during pregnancy and before labour. GBS most commonly causes infections including sepsis (infection of the blood), pneumonia (infection in the lungs), and meningitis (infection of the fluid and lining around the brain). Currently around 1 in every 1,750 babies born in the UK develop a GBS infection, of which 1 in every 19 babies affected will die, and 1 in every 14 surviving babies will suffer a long-term disability.

Currently only women identified as being at risk are tested for GBS by the NHS, and if positive are prescribed antibiotics during labour and birth. This is in stark contrast to many countries including America, Canada, France, Germany and Slovenia who routinely offer screening for GBS. It is hoped that routine testing and treatment when positive will decrease the rate and impact of this devastating infection.

The symptoms of early-onset GBS infection in babies include:

  • Grunting, moaning, noisy breathing, and difficulties breathing or not breathing at all
  • Sleepiness and / or unresponsiveness
  • Crying inconsolably
  • Unusual floppiness
  • Difficulties feeding or keeping milk down
  • A high or low temperature and / or skin that is too hot or cold to the touch
  • Changes in the skin colour including blotchy skin
  • An abnormally fast or slow heart rate or breathing rate
  • Low blood pressure and / or low blood sugar (identified by a test done in hospital).

If you notice any of these symptoms or have concerns regarding the health of your baby, you should immediately contact your healthcare profession and mention your concern of GBS infection. Early diagnosis and treatment for GBS infection is essential to minimise its impact. Wolferstans are encouraged by this trial because we have seen the devastating impact a GBS infection can have if it goes undiagnosed or untreated, and we hope that this trial will prevent catastrophic injuries as well as providing reassurance to pregnant women.

If you and your baby have experienced medical errors during your pregnancy, labour or shortly after your baby’s birth which may have resulted in serious injuries and you would like to have a free, confidential discussion, then please contact Elizabeth Smith at Wolferstans, Solicitors on 01752 292309 or

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