Currently, the only available GBS disease prevention strategy is to provide antibiotic prophylaxis to women in labour whose baby is at increased risk of developing GBS disease. However, this strategy is not sufficient even in these two European countries and currently not adopted in settings with limited resources.
Professor Merijn Bijlsma, a paediatrician at Amsterdam University and a lead author said:
"Even with the best medical care, such as available for Dutch and Danish babies, survivors of GBS meningitis and also sepsis may be affected for life. The best way to protect these children is prevention of invasive GBS disease. We need better ways to identify at birth who is at risk, so prevention including with intrapartum antibiotics becomes more effective.”
Vinny Smith, Chief Executive of Meningitis Research Foundation, said:
“This very welcome paper provides new evidence on the poor outcomes for people with invasive GBS infection and especially GBS meningitis. As well as killing people, GBS can cause damage that seriously affects development and education for many of those who survive, with those affected being more likely than others to need extra school support long after infection. This is further evidence of the need to prioritise prevention, such as a vaccine for GBS, and better support for families, as identified by the new WHO Global Roadmap to Defeat Meningitis by 2030."
Unlike other leading causes of meningitis, there is currently no vaccine available to prevent GBS disease.
Professor Joy Lawn, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, senior author and PI said:
“Every year hundreds of thousands of babies have GBS sepsis or meningitis, with a high mortality risk. Families in all continents are affected. Our study shows that GBS also affects educational potential for survivors. The global burden of disease is more than has previously been estimated, underlining the urgent need for prevention. Despite 30 years of research, maternal GBS vaccines currently are not yet available - a contrast to more than 100 COVID-19 vaccines in process within one year. We can and must deliver more for families affected by GBS all over the world.”
Charlotte Cleary's daughter Aimee developed early-onset group B Strep meningitis and sepsis shortly after birth in July 2011. She spent three weeks very sick in hospital. and has recovered with brain damage and physical disabilities. Aimee was diagnosed with quadriplegic spastic cerebral palsy and pseudobulbar palsy, along with learning difficulties and sensory issues. Put simply, she can't sit, stand, walk, talk and is mostly tube-fed.