Testing for Group B Strep carriage could prevent 50 newborn baby deaths a year

Testing for Group B Strep carriage could prevent 50 newborn baby deaths a year

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Charity Group B Strep Support calls for a national screening programme for a newborn baby infection that is 10 times more common than any of the new conditions now screened for.

Group B Strep is the UK’s most common cause of life-threatening infection in newborn babies and of meningitis in babies up to the age of 3 months. At least 500 babies a year in the UK are infected with group B Strep:

  • 1 in 10 of these sick babies die
  • 1 in 20 survivors suffer long-term problems
  • 5 in 10 survivors of group B Strep meningitis suffer long-term mental and physical problems including cerebral palsy.

The UK’s group B Strep prevention strategy has failed – it has failed to reduce the rate of these infections in newborn babies since its introduction in 2003 (0.37 cases per 1,000 live births in 2003[1], 0.38 cases per 1,000 live births in 2013). The actual number of newborn babies developing group B Strep infections has risen by 21% since 2003[2].

Jane Plumb MBE, Chief Executive of Group B Strep Support says, “Surely any country with such a resounding failure to effect change would be looking at successful prevention strategies in other countries and at the very least piloting them in the UK. Why aren’t we?”

Most developed countries routinely offer antenatal testing for group B Strep. At least 20 countries use this strategy. Countries which do have seen their rates of group B Strep infection in newborn babies fall dramatically by 71% to 86%.

Jane Plumb adds, “How many more babies must die before the UK changes its strategy? It is unacceptable to continue with such a manifestly failing policy. Group B Strep screening would save the NHS money and spare huge emotional cost to families caused by their babies’ suffering avoidable infection.

Implementing a screening strategy in the UK and making the ‘gold standard’ test for group B Strep carriage freely available on the NHS would mean fewer newborn babies would get sick, fewer would suffer long-term disabilities and fewer would die.

A group B Strep case study can be provided if required.  Please contact sfiedosiuk@gbss.org.uk or call 01444 416176.

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