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Group B Streptococcus Infections

Tell me more about Group B Strep.

Group B Strep (GBS) was first recognized as a major cause of newborn sepsis and death in 1970, and since then has been recognized in pregnant women and other adults. Although in the same species as the streptococci that cause strep throat, scarlet fever, and the "flesh-eating" disease, they are in a different group.

Recent public health measures to test pregnant woman for GBS and administer prophylactic antibiotics at the time of delivery has greatly decreased the number of new cases of GBS, although this infection still remains a major cause of infant mortality.

How is GBS transmitted?

Most people carry GBS on their gastrointestinal and genital tracts without knowing it, and without any harm done. Transmission to newborns mainly occurs via the birth canal during delivery. Expectant moms can now be tested for the presence of GBS before delivery so that they can receive intravenous (IV) antibiotics during labor.

Transmission among other adults remains unclear.

What are the symptoms of GBS?

Depending on what part of the body GBS infects, the symptoms of infection will be different.

In infants less than one week old, and those 7-90 days old (known as "early-onset" and "late-onset," respectively), the most common sites of infection are:

  • Sepsis
  • Pneumonia
  • Meningitis

In adults, GBS most commonly infects the blood (sepsis) and soft tissue. In pregnant women, urinary tract infections, stillbirth, sepsis, and infection of the amnion (sac surrounding the fetus) are the most common.

How is GBS treated?

Because GBS is caused by a bacterium, antibiotics can be used. In the most severe cases, the patient will be hospitalized so that intravenous (IV) antibiotics can be used. For less severe cases, oral antibiotics can be used.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is currently monitoring antibiotic resistance in samples of GBS collected.

How can I prevent GBS?

If you are pregnant, it is important to talk to your doctor about getting tested for GBS at 35-37 weeks gestation. This is a simple, painless, quick test that can prevent serious illness and even death in your baby.

The other best protection against GBS is frequent handwashing to remove any GBS germs you may be carrying on your skin.

CDC Info on Group B Streptococcus Infections: