Group B Streptococcus (GBS) remains the UK’s leading cause of bacterial meningitis in newborn babies. Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) is proud to support Group B Strep Support (GBSS) in their GBS Awareness Month campaign for 2020.
July is GBS awareness month. GBS bacteria
are quite common - they are carried, mostly harmlessly, by 20-40% of adults. Around one in five pregnant women carry the bacteria in the gut or vagina. In most cases it is harmless but it can sometimes cause death or serious complications in babies that come into contact with it during or after birth.
When GBS infection occurs within the first six days of life we call it early onset disease, and it mainly results in sepsis. GBS infection in babies older than seven days is called late onset disease, and more commonly results in meningitis.
A national government-funded trial
into routine screening began in September 2019 in the UK, hoping to provide definitive answers on whether screening pregnant women for GBS would be superior to the current risk-based policy. Routine testing might prevent cases of early onset disease occurring in very young babies, but late onset GBS could only be preventable by vaccinating pregnant women.
Unfortunately, there is no vaccine available currently to prevent GBS disease. A vaccine for pregnant women would protect their unborn babies against both early and late onset GBS disease. Several GBS vaccines for pregnant women are in development, but are not yet licensed.
As of June 2020, researchers can now identify why certain types of GBS bacteria are particularly deadly
in newborn babies, causing meningitis and sepsis. The new research has also given clues to the origin of GBS bacteria, linking it to bacteria found in animals. We are hopeful that these genetic clues will assist in the development of a GBS vaccine.
Linda Glennie, Director of Research at MRF said: “GBS is a terrible problem, not just in the UK, but around the world, causing not only meningitis in babies, but sepsis and pneumonia as well as prematurity and stillbirths."
“We look forward to results from the UK trial to show the best way forward until a vaccine is available that can protect all babies against GBS.”