New vaccine to be trialled that could prevent GBS in newborn babies

18 Aug 2017
New vaccine to be trialled that could prevent GBS in newborn babies

Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) welcomes the news that clinical trials of a new vaccine to prevent Group B Streptococcus (GBS) infection have begun.

GBS is a leading cause of life-threatening meningitis and septicaemia in newborn babies worldwide.

GBS bacteria are very commonly carried in adults, and pregnant women who are carriers of the bacteria may pass it on to their newborns before or during birth.

In some countries, including the US, pregnant women are screened for GBS, and if they are found to be carriers of the bacteria, they are offered prophylactic antibiotics during labour to stop the bacteria being transmitted to their newborn baby.

This new clinical trial will evaluate the new vaccine, developed by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, in adults in the US. Another trial of this vaccine is also underway in South Africa, with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Linda Glennie, Head of Research at MRF said, “We are delighted that there is progress in the development of a vaccine which could protect pregnant women and their newborn babies from GBS. Meningitis and septicaemia caused by the GBS bacteria are very serious and can cause death or lifelong after effects such as deafness or brain damage in newborns. Prevention through vaccination of pregnant women would be far better than treatment with antibiotics, especially since screening pregnant women for GBS is not routine in many countries, and in settings where delivery of antenatal care is inadequate, it is not possible. Whilst this is still early days we await the trial results with great interest.”

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