Thank you for contacting me about group B streptococcus (GBS).
I know that this infection have a devastating effect on mothers and their babies and I think it is important that the Government continues to take all reasonable steps to deal with the problem.
I am informed that the Department of Health is working together with the NHS and other organisations to reduce early-onset GBS infection in new born babies. Last year health organisations came together to develop improved ways of tackling the disease.
I understand that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recommend that all women should be offered a test in early pregnancy to identify the presence of bacteria in the urine. GBS can sometimes be identified in this way and NICE guidelines recommend that antibiotics in labour should be offered as a result.
However, I understand that the UK National Screening Committee has not recommended that antenatal screening for GBS at 35 – 37 weeks because:
• Screening tests cannot distinguish between women whose babies would be affected and those which would not. This would mean that 140,000 low risk pregnant women would be offered antibiotics in labour when the overwhelming majority would have a healthy baby without screening.
• There are concerns about resistance to some antibiotics used to prevent GBS, the long-term effects on the baby and the potential for anaphylactic reactions in labour.
• The majority of babies who die from early onset GBS are premature and are, sadly, born too early to be helped by screening.
I can assure you that GBS is already firmly on the Government’s agenda.
Thank you once again for contacting me.