New trial aims to improve prevention of meningitis caused by group B streptococcal infection

14 May 2019
New trial aims to improve prevention of meningitis caused by group B streptococcal infection

Meningitis Research Foundation welcomes the news that an important trial will soon be underway, aiming to improve the prevention of group B Streptococcal (GBS) disease in newborn babies in the UK.

GBS is the most common cause of life-threatening infection in newborn babies in the UK, including meningitis, sepsis and pneumonia.

The UK’s current GBS prevention strategy involves identifying at-risk expectant mothers and offering them antibiotics during childbirth, but research has shown that the current approach is not very accurate, and has been unsuccessful at reducing early onset GBS disease (within the first six days of life).

The new trial - funded by the National Institute for Health Research - will compare the current risk-based prevention with the effectiveness of testing at 35 – 37 weeks of pregnancy or with a bedside test in labour to identify pregnant women who are carrying GBS bacteria.

Testing all expectant mothers for the presence of the bacteria means that they can be offered antibiotics during labour to prevent the baby from developing disease. This approach has been successful in reducing GBS in newborn babies in many countries where it is implemented, but has not yet been widely used in the UK.

"Preventing GBS by offering vaccination for pregnant women would be the best way to save lives. Meanwhile, improvements in targeting antibiotics by screening could save lives while we wait for a vaccine to be licensed." Linda Glennie, MRF

Linda Glennie, Director of Research at Meningitis Research Foundation said, “GBS disease is a terrible problem, not just in the UK, but around the world. There is ongoing debate as to which prevention strategy would be better for the UK, and this trial should provide important evidence.

“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. Reducing neonatal meningitis is an international priority for MRF. Preventing GBS by offering vaccination for pregnant women would be the best way to save lives. Meanwhile, improvements in targeting antibiotics by screening could save lives while we wait for a vaccine to be licensed.”

GBS
GBS
Group B streptococcal (GBS) - A major cause of meningitis in new-born babies
Media contact
Sam Williams - Media Relations Manager
Tel: 07875 498047
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