GBS Genome Library

An online library of the genetic blueprint of Group B streptococcal (GBS) bacteria

Dr Arie van der Ende, Prof Martin Hibberd, Prof Taco Kuijpers
Start Date
01 Jun 2016
Academic Medical Centre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge, UK.

What is this project about?

This project investigates the cause of a progressive rise in neonatal meningitis caused by group B Streptococcus (GBS) in the Netherlands between 1987 and 2011 and will for the first time describe the whole genome pathology and epidemiology of this world wide cause of meningitis. Ultimately this will lead to initiate policy change in neglected areas of significant infant mortality.

Why is it important?

Worldwide 40% of child mortality occurs in the neonatal period with meningitis being amongst the commonest causes of death. Group B Streptococcus (GBS or Streptococcus agalactiae) and E.coli are the two most common micro-organisms causing about 60% of all meningitis cases in neonates and infants up to 3 months of age. Also in developed countries, bacterial meningitis remains a major cause of death in this early age range. Treatment of this serious condition requires hospital admission for intravenous antibiotics. Despite increased awareness over the last decades, long term sequelae are still a major cause of morbidity following meningitis. 

Potential outcomes

Understanding neonatal susceptibility to GBS and a change in bacterial virulence factors will lead to approaches to improve the current prevention strategies. Alternatively, protection by prior multivalent GBS vaccination of pregnant women is being considered a novel strategy to improve immunity in neonates, where success will depend on the correct selection of the vaccine components, which may be used to boost immunity in-vivo.

In the Netherlands, we have identified a progressive increase in the incidence of GBS neonatal meningitis between 1987 and 2011, which was accompanied by changes in genotype distribution of the infectious agent. The introduction of risk-based GBS preventive treatment guidelines in 1999, (consisting of intravenous antibiotic prophylaxis during fever at delivery, premature labour or prolonged rupture of membranes) did not result in the expected decline of GBS disease incidence.

Since the charity was founded in 1989, we have awarded 161 research grants. The total value of our investment in vital scientific research is over £19.1 million (€24.7 million).
We take action that benefits people directly, including training health professionals and providing support and information services.
We call for positive change as a united voice against meningitis and septicaemia, and a dedicated champion for those it affects.
We've invested nearly £20 million into meningitis research since 1989. Now, we're looking back at our most incredible achievements so far.
Give researchers the clues to help defeat meningitis
Give researchers the clues to help defeat meningitis
£160/€190/$214 decodes the genetic information in a sample of meningococcal bacteria. This information helps us to track new forms of meningitis and campaign to introduce new vaccines.
Liz Rodgers
Research Projects Manager

Hi, I’m Liz and I’m MRF's Research Projects Manager.

If you’d like to know more about this area of MRF's work, do get in touch.

Tel: 0333 405 6258