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Pregnant women should be tested for Group B Strep to save babies’ lives, say campaigners

Pregnant women should be tested for Group B Strep to save the lives of dozens of babies every year, campaigners have warned.

Group B Strep is the most recurrent cause of life-threatening illness in newborn babies, with an average of two babies a day identified with the infection. Each week, one of these babies goes on to die while another develops an ongoing long-term disability.

More than one in five women carry Group B Strep, a common bacteria that normally causes no harm and no symptoms. However, its presence in the vagina or rectum means babies can be exposed to it during labour and birth.

Pregnant women in Britain are not routinely tested for its presence, but a trial led by the University of Nottingham is examining whether such a move would be effective. Campaigners have called for more hospitals to join the pilot to ensure it is successful.

Jane Plumb, chief executive of campaign group Group B Strep Support, said: “It’s taken over 20 years of campaigning to get this trial commissioned. It’s devastating that only 30 of the 80 hospitals needed have signed up. We can’t let this trial fail.

“We need to fight for the 800 babies per year that are infected with this too-often-deadly infection. We need more hospitals to take part. We need to rally together and get this trial over the finish line.”

Ms Plumb said the majority of Group B Strep infections in babies are preventable.

“If we don’t know, then they can’t be offered the protective antibiotics in labour,” she said. “Families so often tell us that the first time they hear of Group B Strep is after their baby falls ill. For a mostly preventable infection, this is unforgivable – and must change.

“We want to encourage every hospital to take part. We need people to ask for their MP’s support. This is an opportunity to save so many babies’ lives, but we only have six months to get hospitals on board. It really is now or never.”

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Source: The Independent, 19 April 2022


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