by Eleni Vergadi, Young ISSAD committee member
Assist. Professor of Paediatrics, Medical School, University of Crete
Time after time, we hear the stories of mothers who have experienced loss of their newborn babies or severe manifestations caused by infections they had never heard of or that they were told that they were not that important.
Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is a type of bacterium that is responsible for significant perinatal illness. GBS may be present in the gastrointestinal or genital tract of healthy individuals. Approximately 1 in 4 pregnant women carry GBS.
GBS does not use any symptoms in most carriers. While GBS is generally harmless in adults, it can pose a risk to newborns if transmitted during childbirth. The incidence of GBS infection in newborns varies from country to country. However, the burden of GBS infection in neonates is still considerable worldwide and continues to affect children beyond infancy.
The severity of GBS infection and the impact that may in newborn infants emphasize the need for preventive strategies. Currently, there are no vaccines for GBS infection, however maternal GBS vaccines are in the pipeline.
At the moment, in many countries, pregnant women are screened for GBS between weeks 35 and 37 of pregnancy. In other countries, several risk factors are taken into account to determine the risk of GBS carriage. The Group B Streptococcus (GBS) test, also known as GBS screening or GBS culture, is a test performed during pregnancy to determine whether a woman is carrying GBS bacteria in her vaginal or rectal areas. The test is typically conducted between weeks 35 and 37 of gestation. Testing and early detection of GBS carriage allows for appropriate interventions to reduce the risk of transmission during labor.
To prevent GBS transmission during labor, women who test positive for GBS or those with certain risk factors will be given intravenous antibiotics during labor. This helps reduce the likelihood of GBS transmission to the newborn.
Feel free to discuss with your doctor about GBS, the available of GBS testing in your pregnancy or the possibility/ risk factors that you may have to carry GBS, as well as the available ways that you may have to prevent transmission to your baby during labour.
It’s important also to note that not all babies exposed to GBS will develop an infection. It’s essential though to be aware of the signs of GBS infection in your baby. These may include fever, difficulty feeding, lethargy, irritability, abnormal breathing, or changes in skin color. Prompt medical attention should be sought if these signs are observed.