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.