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Watch this space for the latest news about the activities of GBSS and for other announcements and news about Group B Strep.

If you have some news we should be sharing on this page, please contact us.

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Survey of Maternity Care Health Professionals' views

Please complete this survey seeking your views about testing for group B Strep - click here.   You can complete the survey anonymously and we will share the results widely online and elsewhere.


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2014 New survey into Group B Strep infection in babies

Group B Streptococcal disease in UK & Irish infants less than 90 days of age

The last GBS surveillance study in the UK and Ireland was undertaken in 2000/1. An update is needed to improve our understanding of the current burden of infection and its risk factors. This will help target future strategies to prevent infections. Comprehensive information about the current disease burden is needed to assess the impact of prevention guidelines (guidelines were issued by the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists in 2003) as well as provide the baseline for a possible GBS vaccine programme.

Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is the most common cause of serious bacterial infections (e.g. septicaemia, pneumonia) in the first week of life and of meningitis in the first three months of life. Approximately 10% of babies with GBS disease will die and neurodisability occurs in up to 50% of survivors of GBS meningitis.

Early onset GBS disease (developing in a babies first 6 days of life) may be prevented by antibiotics given intravenously to the mother during labour; national guidelines introduced in 2003 and updated in 2012 currently recommend this for women with certain risk factors. Late onset disease however is not currently preventable. A vaccine against GBS has been developed and is currently being tested in pregnant women, which may well be available to pregnant women within the next decade or so. 

Case Definition: Any case of invasive group B streptococcus (GBS grown from a sterile site) in an infant of less than 90 days of age.

Reporting Instructions: Paediatricians - Please report any baby seen in the last month who meets the case definition in the UK or the Republic of Ireland from April 2014.  Microbiologists - Please report GBS cases as normal and submit GBS isolates to the reference laboratory

Duration: 1 April 2014 - 30 April 2015

Funding: The study is funded by a grant from Meningitis Now.

More information and downloads:


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2014 Group B Strep petition to UK Government

A new petition to the UK Government, ending on 19 February 2015, has been created by Lindsey Nunn. Please read, sign & share it. 

The petition calls on the Department of Health to ensure that: EVERY woman is routinely given accurate information about group B Streptococcus (group B Strep or GBS) during antenatal care; every low-risk woman is offered a sensitive test for GBS, ideally at 35-37 weeks; and every higher-risk woman is offered antibiotics.

Click here to be taken to the petition - it's open to all British citizens or UK residents who have an email address.


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2014 Call for routine screening for GBS in Scotland

The Scottish Government's Petitions Committee considered the petition submitted by Jackie Watt, who lost her granddaughter Lola as a result of group B Strep infection.  Jackie and Jane Plumb MBE, Chief Executive of Group B Strep Support gave evidence, and called for every pregnant woman to be informed about and offered testing for group B Streptococcus as a routine part of antenatal care.

View at http://www.bbc.co.uk/democracylive/scotland-26628387


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2014 Our Chief Executive visits No 10 Downing Street

The Prime Minister invited the Tesco #MumoftheYear winners, including our Chief Executive, Jane Plumb, to a reception to celebrate inspirational women, held to mark International Women's Day on 8 March 2014. 150 women from a range of backgrounds, including business, charity, government and creative industries were invited. 

Both David and Samantha Cameron took the time to congratulate the winners and pose for photos with them.  Samantha Cameron said: "It is wonderful to have the Tesco Mums of the Year here this evening. The work that they do is incredible."

Jane said, "Its was great to have a brief conversation with the Prime Minister, both to thank him for his involvement and support over the years, and to give him a quick update of the current situation.  He listened, made a couple of suggestions and said his team would be in touch. It was good to see him again after all these years."

Photography: Zoe Norfolk

Main Image: (L-R) Diana Golding, Jane Plumb, David Cameron, Ranu Mehta-Radia, Maggie Hughes, Pam Clarke, Lynn McManus, Laura Young

 



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2014 Government U-turn on GBS testing

At the very end of 2013, the Department of Health made a devastating, last minute u-turn on a policy decision to make an improved GBS-specific test available at the request of health professionals for pregnant women in their care just days before the scheduled start date of 1 January 2014.  For more information, and to help make a difference, please click here.


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2014 Study on attitudes to GBS immunisation

Group B Streptococcus: attitudes of parents of babies affected by GBS to immunisation during pregnancy

The Oxford Vaccine Group is currently looking for parents who have previously had a child with Group B streptococcal (GBS) infection who would like to share their thoughts and opinions about vaccination during pregnancy. Please note this study does not involve any blood tests or vaccinations.

Immunising pregnant women can be a good way of protecting their babies against serious diseases. We know however, from previous research that people often have concerns about receiving vaccines during pregnancy. It is important that we find out more about these issues and what sort of information people want to receive to help make decisions about immunisation.

The Oxford Vaccine Group is particularly interested finding out what people think about GBS as this is the most common cause of serious infection in very young babies and there is ongoing research into developing a vaccine for this condition. The group is particularly seeking views of families directly affected by GBS. They will also be speaking with pregnant women and maternity healthcare professionals.

The Oxford Vaccine Group would like to invite parents of babies affected by GBS to a one-off interview during which the above issues will be discussed. This would last about an hour and would take place somewhere in Oxford or the surrounding area. More details about the study can be found in the information booklet (click here).

If you are interested in participating in the study, please read the Study Information Booklet (click here) and if you would like any further information regarding the study please contact the Oxford Vaccine Group direct on:

Email: info@ovg.ox.ac.uk

Tel: 01865 857420

Study reference: OVG-2013,06

Ethics reference: 13/SC/0619

This study is being run by the Oxford Vaccine Group in collaboration with the Health Experiences Research Group, both of which are part of the University of Oxford.  The study is being sponsored by Oxford University and funded by Meningitis UK.  We at GBSS are delighted to support this study.


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2014 Our Chief Executive is Tesco #MumoftheYear

Such fantastic news, our chief executive, Jane Plumb MBE has just been announced as Tesco Campaigning Mum of the Year.  Read all about it by clicking here #MumoftheYear


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2013 What do midwives know about group B Strep?

In a recent survey: What Do Midwives Really Know about GBS conducted by Group B Strep Support at the Royal College of Midwives 2-day conference in November 2013, 163 midwives and student midwives provided information.  Headline findings included:

  • 98% of Midwives surveyed had heard of GBS
  • fewer than half of Midwives (46%) had read their Hospital Trust's GBS guidelines;
  • only 16% had read the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists' guidelines
  • only 9% of Midwives did NOT want to see pregnant women offered a test for GBS carriage
  • nearly half of Midwives (44%) said they did not have adequate information about group B Strep
  • almost half of Midwives (49%) said they did not feel well informed enough to talk about GBS to families in their care

Group B Strep is the most common cause of severe infection in newborn babies with an incidence of culture-proven cases in babies aged 0-6 days of 0.5 per 1,000 live births and a mortality rate of 10.6% (Source: Heath PT et al, 2004). Midwives play a key role in the identification of mothers whose babies are at raised risk of these infections. 

It is simply shocking that almost half of the midwives surveyed do not feel they have adequate information either for themselves or to provide the families in their care.


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2013 Incidence of GBS infection in newborn babies unchanged

Data has been published on the incidence of GBS infection in babies reported in 2012.  Despite national guidelines being introduced for the prevention of earlyonset GBS infection in 2003 (updated 2012), the incidence of early onset GBS infection in England, Wales & Northern Ireland is largely unchanged, suggesting that these guidelines are having at best a limited effect.  Click here to see the data reports from 2001 to 2012.


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2013 Call for routine Strep B test after baby death

www.itv.com/news/granada/story/2013-11-13/call-for-strep-test-in-pregnancy/ ... a couple from Lancaster are calling for pregnant women to be tested for an infection called group B strep after their death of their baby.


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2013 Adjournment Debate in Westminster

Nadine Dorries MP held an Adjournment debate on 7 November 2013, with additional questions asked by Andrew Selous and a response from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Dr Dan Poulter).  Click here to watch on YouTube or click here to read the transcript.


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2013 Christmas

Please visit our Christmas 2013 page by clicking here. It's getting ever closer to Christmas and that means it is time for our Christmas Raffle and to start thinking about our Christmas cards and, of course, Christmas shopping. 


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2013 Latest research - what women want

Bounty Media research reveals that women want better protection for their babies from group B Strep infection; 97% of the women interviewed think all pregnant women should be routinely offered a reliable test for GBS.  The research conducted among approximately 2,000 pregnant women on Bounty's Word of Mum research panel, showed that 41% of women had not heard of GBS.  For more information, click here.


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2013 GBSS wins an award

All at GBSS were thrilled to receive the FabVorg Friendliness Award for best voluntary organisation - thanks to our lovely volunteer, Margaret Gomme, for nominating us. 

Margaret and GBSS Chief Exec, Jane Plumb, collected the award from Mid Sussex (South) Council for Voluntary Service & Volunteer Centre http://www.msscvs.org.uk on 26th October 2013.  For more information, click here.


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2013 NSC Director gives misinformation to BBC

BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on 19 August discussed prevention of group B Strep infections in babies. You can listen to the interview here. Dr Anne Mackie, Director of the UK National Screening Committee, repeatedly asserted that the number of babies 'badly affected' by group B Strep was 40 a year. 

This is simply incorrect.

The number of newborn babies voluntarily reported with culture-proven group B Strep infection in England, Wales and Northern Ireland was 302 in 2010[1].  We at GBSS are disappointed that, despite being offered the opportunity to do so, Dr Makie repeatedly asserted the 40 figure. 

Public Health England has been prompt in recognising the error (click here) - we await something similar from Dr Mackie and the National Screening Committee.

[1] Series online at http://bit.ly/1cWT6Ex


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2013 Highlights of GBS Awareness Month

July was Group B Strep Awareness Month.  the month's campaign, "A simple Test to Save A Life" has now drawn to a close after 31 days of concentrated awareness raising by us at GBSS, and also by many supporters up and down the country.

We've put together a brief summary - click here and our chief executive, Jane Plumb, has recorded a brief message about Group B Strep Awareness Month - to view it, click here.


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2013 GBS is the most common cause of serious infection in newborn babies

and is usually preventable. Many western countries routinely offer pregnant women testing for GBS, good quality testing is rarely available in the NHS.

Can you help? Please visit our dedicated page here to give you some ideas, or call us on 01444 416176 or email us at info@gbss.org.uk to discuss this.


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2013 Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists' GBS Patient Information - Revision

The RCOG consults health professionals and users of Obstetrics & Gynaecology services on draft publications. They are now reviewing their patient information on "Preventing group B Streptococcus (GBS) infection in newborn babies" which was first published in 2006. Please comment on this document:

The consultation closes at midnight on 17 February 2013.

Our Chief Executive, Jane Plumb MBE, said, "It's so important for people to comment on these documents and help the RCOG ensure that they really do meet the needs of new and expectant parents and their health professionals."

We hope many individuals and health professionals will suggest improvements too.  

You can download GBSS's comments by clicking here.


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2012 The National Screening Committee rules against screening for group B Strep

The UK National Screening Committee (NSC) has again decided not to recommend antenatal screening for group B Strep, with no review for another 3-4 years. Their document for public consultation is available here, as are the comments made during the public consultation by more than 200 individuals, health professionals, MPs, charities and medical bodies. Over 90% of the comments they received were for screening – so far, the NSC has failed to respond to any of these comments.

Our Chief Executive, Jane Plumb MBE said, "The decision not to recommend routine screening for group B Strep is devastating. Every year, hundreds of newborn babies suffer illness, disability and even death due to group B Strep. This decision means more future babies will suffer needlessly from infections which could and should have been prevented – some of these precious babies will die, others will survive with life-long disabilities, most will thankfully recovery but for all of their families it will be a traumatic. I am at a loss to understand why the NSC has refused to see that the current situation in the UK is unacceptable and that the introduction of routine screening is the best way forward."

We may have lost this battle, but we’ve not lost the war – but we’ll need your help.

Please write to your local MP and inform them of your disappointment over the decision and asking them to table parliamentary questions on the subject. Click here for information on how to get in touch with your MP.
 
Please also write to your local media (newspaper, radio, TV station) and tell them how you as a local campaigner on this issue are so disappointed in this decision (our press release at http://bit.ly/UAC4wK may help).  


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2012 Little change in preventable group B Strep infections in England, Wales & Northern Ireland combined

2012 Little chance in preventable group B Strep infections in England, Wales & Northern Ireland combined

The incidence of GBS infection in babies remained relatively unchanged in 2011 compared with 2010 in England & Wales, though there has been a welcome fall in Northern Ireland*.  The reason for this fall is unclear although the numbers for Northern Ireland need to be treated with caution due to small sample sizes. However, the effect of the local awareness campaign of 2011 cannot be ruled out.

The overall trend in England, Wales & Northern Ireland is of a rising incidence of group B Strep infections in babies, despite national guidelines.  The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists introduced Green Top Guideline 36 against GBS infection in newborn babies in 2003.  The  number of reported cases in England, Wales & Northern Ireland for 2004, the following year, and for 2011 are:

2004 : England, Wales & Northern Ireland

207 (0.32 per 1,000 live births) early-onset GBS infections in babies aged 0-6 days
104 (0.16 per 1,000 live births) late-onset GBS infections in babies aged 7-90 days

2011 : England, Wales & Northern Ireland

281 (0.38 per 1,000 live births) early-onset GBS infections in babies aged 0-6 days
192 (0.26 per 1,000 live births) late onset GBS infections in babies aged 7-90 days

The early-onset GBS infections which are often potentially preventable by identifying situations which mean a baby is at raised risk of developing GBS infection in the first few days of life and offering the the mother intravenous antibiotics in labour to minimise that risk.  These recognised 'risk factors' are listed here.   Until a vaccine is developed, the late-onset GBS infections are not currently preventable - early recognition of  signs and symptoms consistent with late onset GBS infection and early treatment is vital.

Disappointingly, reported early-onset GBS infections in England, Wales and Northern Ireland combined increased between 2004 and 2011 by over 35%, with the rate per 1,000 live births increasing by almost 20%. The change since 2010 has been minimal.

The situation in Northern Ireland is markedly different, although the samples sizes are small and therefore it is difficult to reach conclusions from the data.  However, the data shows that reported early onset GBS infections almost halved, from 11 (0.51 per 1,000 live births) in 2004 to 6 (0.47 per 1,000) in 2011.  Reported late onset GBS infections increased from 3 (0.14 per 1,000 live births) in 2004 to 12 (0.47 per 1,000) in 2011.

*GBS infections in babies aged 0-90 days are reported on a voluntary basis to the Health Protection Agency and reported each November. Data are not collected for stillborn babies. Click on this link to read the reports from 2001 to 2011.


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2012 Charities & Health Profs call for routine GBS screening

Group B Strep Support and other leading charities, along with health professionals have sent a letter to the Secretary of State for Health asking that all women in the late stages of pregnancy are routinely offered screening for group B Strep. Below is the letter we have sent to Mr Hunt and we would welcome your support.

In countries where screening is routine, the number of reported GBS infections in newborn babies has fallen, while in the UK the number of reported cases continues to rise. There is an urgent need for action as the longer the status quo remains the more babies will needlessly die or suffer serious life-long disability.

The UK National Screening Committee is currently considering whether routine screening should be made available across the UK. They meet on Tuesday, 13th November 2012 to make a decision on this important issue.

You can read the letter to Mr Hunt by clicking here.


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2012 NICE Guideline on Antibiotics for Prevention & Treatment of Neonatal Infection

Published in August 2012, this new National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guideline focuses on the use of antibiotics for the prevention and treatment of early-onset (within 72 hours of birth) bacterial infection in newborn babies, including those caused by GBS.

The new guideline makes a number of recommendations, including:

  • A framework based on risk factors and clinical indicators should be used to identify and treat babies with an increased likelihood of having an early-onset neonatal infection.
  • Intrapartum antibiotic prophylaxis should be offered in a timely manner to women whose babies are at higher risk of infection (including all pregnant women from whom GBS is found during their current pregnancy).
  • Babies with suspected early-onset neonatal infection should receive antibiotics as quickly as possible (within 1 hour of the decision to treat).
  • Benzylpenicillin and gentamicin should be used in combination as the first-choice antibiotic regimen for treating suspected early onset neonatal infection.
  • When starting antibiotic treatment in babies with risk factors for infection or clinical indicators of possible infection, a blood culture should be performed before administering the first dose.

More information about the guideline, including implementation tools, can be found as follows:

http://guidance.nice.org.uk/CG149 - the guideline itself

http://guidance.nice.org.uk/CG149/SlideSet – Educational slide set

http://guidance.nice.org.uk/CG149/BaselineAssessment/xls/English – baseline assessment tool

http://guidance.nice.org.uk/CG149/CostingTemplate/xls/English – costing tool

http://guidance.nice.org.uk/CG149/CostingReport/pdf/English – costing report

http://guidance.nice.org.uk/CG149/ElectronicAudit/xls/English – electronic audit tool


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2012 Processing Swabs for Group B Strep - Health Protection Agency update

In August 2012, the Standards Unit of the Health Protection Agency’s Microbiology Services Division issued an update to their UK Standards for Microbiology Investigations (SMI), Processing Swabs for Group B Streptococcal Carriage The document has been updated for clarity and is presented in a new format, although there are no major changes to the guidance. 

This SMI describes the processing of specimens from pregnant women for carriage of group B Streptococci and provides a standardised method for culture where clinicians decide to investigate specific patients. As the SMI states,

“according to local protocols, patients judged clinically to be at high risk for the development of Group B streptococcal infection may be investigated for carriage. The isolation rate of GBS from clinical specimens depends on several factors. Studies have shown that the accuracy of prenatal screening cultures for identification of GBS colonisation can be enhanced by attention to the timing of cultures, the sites swabbed and the microbiological method used for culture of organisms. Collection of swabs between 35 and 37 weeks gestation is recommended to improve the sensitivity and specificity of detection of colonisation at the time of delivery11. Optimum yield will be achieved by selective/enrichment procedures applied to swabs obtained from the vagina and the anorectum which increases the likelihood of GBS isolation by up to 30% compared with vaginal or cervical culture alone. Vaginal and rectal swabs are likely to isolate a diverse array of normal flora and use of selective enrichment broth is recommended to avoid overgrowth of other organisms.”

It remains astonishing to us at GBSS that so few NHS hospitals make this test available either to pregnant women in their care or at the request of their health professionals.

 

In August 2012, the Standards Unit of the Health Protection Agency’s Microbiology Services Division issued an update to their UK Standards for Microbiology Investigations (SMI), Processing Swabs for Group B Streptococcal Carriage.*  The document has been updated for clarity and is presented in a new format, although there are no major changes to the guidance. 

This SMI describes the processing of specimens from pregnant women for carriage of group B Streptococci and provides a standardised method for culture where clinicians decide to investigate specific patients. As the SMI states,

“according to local protocols, patients judged clinically to be at high risk for the development of Group B streptococcal infection may be investigated for carriage. The isolation rate of GBS from clinical specimens depends on several factors. Studies have shown that the accuracy of prenatal screening cultures for identification of GBS colonisation can be enhanced by attention to the timing of cultures, the sites swabbed and the microbiological method used for culture of organisms. Collection of swabs between 35 and 37 weeks gestation is recommended to improve the sensitivity and specificity of detection of colonisation at the time of delivery11. Optimum yield will be achieved by selective/enrichment procedures applied to swabs obtained from the vagina and the anorectum which increases the likelihood of GBS isolation by up to 30% compared with vaginal or cervical culture alone. Vaginal and rectal swabs are likely to isolate a diverse array of normal flora and use of selective enrichment broth is recommended to avoid overgrowth of other organisms.”

It remains astonishing to us at GBSS that so few NHS hospitals make this test available either to pregnant women in their care or at the request of their health professionals.

In August 2012, the Standards Unit of the Health Protection Agency’s Microbiology Services Division issued an update to their UK Standards for Microbiology Investigations (SMI), Processing Swabs for Group B Streptococcal Carriage.*  The document has been updated for clarity and is presented in a new format, although there are no major changes to the guidance. 

This SMI describes the processing of specimens from pregnant women for carriage of group B Streptococci and provides a standardised method for culture where clinicians decide to investigate specific patients. As the SMI states,

“according to local protocols, patients judged clinically to be at high risk for the development of Group B streptococcal infection may be investigated for carriage. The isolation rate of GBS from clinical specimens depends on several factors. Studies have shown that the accuracy of prenatal screening cultures for identification of GBS colonisation can be enhanced by attention to the timing of cultures, the sites swabbed and the microbiological method used for culture of organisms. Collection of swabs between 35 and 37 weeks gestation is recommended to improve the sensitivity and specificity of detection of colonisation at the time of delivery11. Optimum yield will be achieved by selective/enrichment procedures applied to swabs obtained from the vagina and the anorectum which increases the likelihood of GBS isolation by up to 30% compared with vaginal or cervical culture alone. Vaginal and rectal swabs are likely to isolate a diverse array of normal flora and use of selective enrichment broth is recommended to avoid overgrowth of other organisms.”

It remains astonishing to us at GBSS that so few NHS hospitals make this test available either to pregnant women in their care or at the request of their health professionals.


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2012 Community forum about group B Strep

Please join and contribute to the HealthUnlocked forum we've created for those affected by group B Strep in some way.  Here you can connect with others who have been affected and share your experiences with each other.  Click here to visit the community.


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2012 RCOG update to group B Strep Guidelines

In July 2012, the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists released their updated Greentop guideline on the prevention of early-onset group B Streptococcal disease (No 36) - click here

Disappointingly, few changes have been made to the first edition (published in 2003), despite a lengthy consultation process to which GBSS and others contributed. 

Unchanged remains the statement that routine bacteriological screening of all pregnant women for antenatal GBS carriage is not recommended (this is a Grade D recommendation, using Level 4 evidence - expert opinion).  Given the wealth of evidence from other countries which screen and have seen their incidence fall dramatically (while the UK’s incidence is rising), which RCOG chooses to believe might be inappropriate to extrapolate to the UK, this is very disappointing. 

There are some minor improvements to the updated guideline, particularly in giving more clarity (for example, the guidelines now use the term ‘offer’ rather than ‘consider’ giving antibiotics in labour for women found to carry GBS during the current pregnancy) and including guidance on vaginal cleansing which had not been there before. 

On the other hand, the guideline recommends against antenatal testing for group B Strep carriage, continues to treats unknown GBS carriage status the same as negative GBS carriage status (which will be untrue for up to 30% of women), has removed a recommendation for prolonged rupture of membranes (a recognised risk factor for GBS infection in newborn babies) and fails to mention the difference between the tests for GBS carriage currently available in the UK. 

As worrying are statements of facts which don’t bear scrutiny – for example, the statement "the incidence of EOGBS disease in the absence of systematic screening… is similar to that seen in the USA after universal screening and intra-partum antibiotic prophylaxis" is false.  In 2011 in the USA, the incidence of EOGBS infection was 0.26 cases per 1,000 live births (ABCs Report: Group B Streptococcus, 2011 http://www.cdc.gov/abcs/reports-findings/survreports/gbs11.html); in 2011 in England, Wales  and Northern Ireland, the incidence voluntarily reported to the Health Protection Agency for early-onset GBS infection was 0.38 per 1,000 live births, 46% higher than the incidence in the US (HPA. Pyogenic and non-pyogenic streptococcal bacteraemia, England, Wales and Northern Ireland: 2011. Health Protection Report [serial online] 2012; 6(46): Bacteraemia http://www.hpa.org.uk/webc/HPAwebFile/HPAweb_C/1317136996075). 

Whilst there are some improvements to the 2012 update, they are tweaks and clarifications rather than fundamental change in guidance.  This is very disappointing.  We at GBSS remain convinced that the best way to prevent more EOGBS infection is by informing all pregnant women about group B Strep and offering them a sensitive test late in pregnancy, with intravenous antibiotics offered in labour to women whose babies are at higher risk. 

The evidence from countries which offer screening shows significant falls in EOGBS infection - the UK incidence since the introduction of the RCOG’s risk based prevention guideline in 2003 has risen.  We had hoped that the RCOG would look at the evidence and realise that their risk-based strategy isn’t working and that it’s time to change.  Sadly, they didn’t.

 

To read our more detailed comments, click here for a pdf or click here for a Word document.


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2012 National Screening Committee GBS Review

Finding against routine antenatal GBS screening to pregnant women, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the UK National Screening Committee's review is to be considered at their meeting on 13 November 2012 - a decision is expected to be announced in December.  More information here


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2012 Women want info and testing for GBS in pregnancy given routinely by NHS

A recent survey found that just over half (54%) of women aged 20-35 have heard of Group B Strep, but only 20% know what it is.  Whilst this is a huge improvement since 2006 when 9 out of 10 pregnant women had not heard of group B Strep (click here), it remains relatively unchanged from the survey in 2010 (click here).

Once young women are made aware of the dangers of Group B Strep, they strongly agree that pregnant women should be offered information, tests and in the case of infection, antibiotics for Group B Strep. This validates GBSS’s campaign goals of raising awareness of Group B Strep and increasing access to tests and treatments.

When asked specifically if they would agree to receive antibiotics in labour if it would minimise the risk of serious infection for their baby a large majority answer  ‘yes’ with a sizable minority answer ‘probably’ rather than ‘definitely’.

Survey conducted by ComRes of 1,000 20-35 year old women in the UK online between 28th October and 1 November 2011 to find out more about the survey from their website click here.

To find out how the information is broken down and to easily understand what it all means, click here


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2012 GBS Report launched in House of Commons

On Thursday 28th June at a meeting in the House of Commons a new report into infant death and disability caused by group B Streptococcus (GBS) infection was launched.  For pictures and videos from the event, click here.

GBS is the most common cause of life-threatening infection in newborn babies, causing death and disability.

The meeting was hosted by Alison Seabeck MP and heard from

  • Professor Philip Steer, Emeritus Professor at Imperial College, consultant obstetrician at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital & Chair of the Group B Strep Support Medical Advisory Panel
  • Charlotte Cheshire, whose son Adam suffered from GBS infection
  • Jane Plumb MBE, Chief Executive of Group B Strep Support, who prepared the new report.


The report is published as the UK National Screening Committee considers the evidence for testing all pregnant women for GBS at a time when the number of cases of early onset GBS infection in newborn babies in the UK continues to rise.

The report clearly shows that the current system of using “risk factors” to identify who to offer preventative medicine is failing to halt the increase in reported cases.  In countries that have introduced routine testing of pregnant women with preventative medicine given to carriers, there have been dramatic falls in reported cases.

A recent survey has shown that women in the UK would welcome the opportunity to be tested for GBS in the later stages of pregnancy and would accept intravenous antibiotics during labour to reduce the chance of their newborn baby being infected with GBS and the potentially devastating consequences.

Group B Strep Support recently launched an online petition calling for better prevention of group B Strep infection in babies in the UK which has over 13,500 signatures   http://www.gbss.org.uk/epetition.

Group B Strep Support is calling for

  • Sensitive GBS testing to be offered by the NHS to all pregnant women
  • All pregnant women to be given information about GBS as part of routine antenatal care
  • Intravenous antibiotics to be offered during labour to all women with identified risk factors (including GBS carriage detected by testing)

Jane Plumb MBE Chief Executive of Group B Strep Support who put together the report said

 “The continued rise in early onset GBS infection in babies clearly demonstrates that the current system of using “risk factors” to identify babies at risk of these infections is failing.  The number of reported cases of early-onset GBS infection in the UK continues to rise (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, by 32% since the risk factor strategy was introduced in 2003) while, in countries that introduced routine testing, the numbers have fallen dramatically.  The evidence from across the globe in favour of introducing routine testing is compelling and I hope and believe that the National Screening Committee will reach the same conclusion and recommend that routine testing is introduced across the UK.

We are delighted by the level of support we have received from politicians, this includes the Prime Minister David Cameron who, while in opposition, tabled motions in parliament in support of testing for GBS.”

Professor Philip Steer, Emeritus Professor at Imperial College said

“Group B Strep infection is the commonest infection complicating labour and the newborn period, and the evidence is now compelling that in the UK the problem is increasing, affecting up to as many as 1,000 babies (and their families) per year.  For too many, the complication is fatal.  This is despite reductions of four fifths or more in the rate of infections due to GBS in many other developed countries, where routine screening of mothers at  35-37 weeks gestation has been introduced.

Although the National Screening Committee has previously declined to advise screening because of a lack of UK studies showing effectiveness, we hope that the accumulated evidence from so many other developed countries will persuade them that it is now time to introduce screening in the UK.”

Media Doctor, Dr Chris Steele MBE said

“At present there is no national testing for group B Strep in pregnancy.  The tests that are done are not designed to detect GBS and give a high level of falsely negative results, meaning women think they are free from GBS when they are not.  Tests are available for GBS which pose no risk to mother or baby, but they are currently only available privately. They should be offered on the NHS.

The Government should act now to ensure women get the very best advice and support during their pregnancy.  This should include information on the serious nature of Group B Strep infection, the offer of testing, followed by appropriate antibiotics during labour to protect the baby from infection.”

Charlotte Cheshire from Telford and parent of Adam, said

“The consequence of group B Strep infection is devastating.

When my son Adam was born in March 2011 he appeared a healthy little boy. However, by the morning after his birth he was grunting and not feeding and the staff realised something was wrong.  Adam stopped breathing, began to have seizures and was running a high fever.  He was placed on a cocktail of antibiotics while the staff confirmed the diagnosis of group B strep infection.   We were told he was not expected to live and, if he did survive, he could be severely disabled.

Adam survived but was in intensive care for three weeks and will require intensive, ongoing monitoring throughout his childhood.  At present, Adam’s identified long term issues are severe hearing damage and problems with his sight, but it could have been so much worse.

Yet all this could have been averted – if I’d had a sensitive GBS test late in pregnancy, it would almost definitely have found GBS and, with antibiotics from the start of labour, Adam could have been protected.

I am Canadian and if I had chosen to have Adam in my native country, sensitive testing for GBS is routine as it is in many other western and European countries and we could have avoided the distress, trauma and consequences of GBS infection.

I believe a national programme should be introduced as soon as possible to reduce the number of families that have to suffer the horrors of GBS infection in their newborn babies.

I am calling on every politician in the land to demand that the health services in the UK act now and offer screening to pregnant women against this life threatening infection.”

You can download the new report here.


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2012 GBS Vaccine Meeting

Novartis Vaccines hosted a day long meeting about developing a vaccine against group B Strep infection.  Still in the development phase, a safe and reliable vaccine when available will revolutionise GBS prevention. 


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2012 GBS Early Day Motions in Parliament

Mark Durkan MP and Mike Hancock MP have each tabled EDMs - read more about them by clicking here.

Please write, email or go to see your MP and ask him/her to sign both of these EDMs (and ask them to sign the petition too http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/4854).


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2012 GBSS responds to anti-screening myths

GBSS's medical advisory panel respond to common myths on why routine screening for group B Strep should not be introduced in the UK.  You can read the article in the BMJ by clicking here.


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2012 Prince Charles awards MBE to our Chief Exec

On 14 February 2012, our Chief Executive, Jane Plumb, and her family travelled to Buckingham Palace where they were all delighted for her to be given her MBE by HRH Prince of Wales.

Here are a couple of pictures to share with you:

Prince Charles awarding Jane Plumb an MBE

And, with her husband, Robert Plumb, a little later in the day on the steps of Buckingham Palace:

Jane Plumb MBE Robert Plumb Group B Strep Support


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2012 GBS on Radio 4's Woman's Hour

Click here to listen to Woman's Hour featuring mum, Charlotte Cheshire, and Prof Philip Steer talking about group B Strep.


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2012 Hong Kong introduces GBS screening

With effect from January 2012, the Hong Kong Hospital Authority (HA) and the Department of Health (DH) have jointly launched a screening programme for Group B Streptococcus (GBS) for pregnant women attending HA and DH for antenatal services. Click here for the formal notification.


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2012 GBSS Founder recognised in New Year's Honours List

Jane Plumb, joint founder of charity Group B Strep Support, has been awarded an MBE for services to Child Healthcare in the 2012 New Year Honours List in recognition of her work to prevent potentially deadly group B Streptococcal infection in newborn babies.

Jane said: “I’m delighted to be awarded this honour by Her Majesty the Queen," said Jane. "I was stunned when I received the news.  This award recognises the unswerving commitment of all Group B Strep Support’s many supporters and medical advisors over the last 15 years and that of my amazing family.  I’m incredibly proud of everything we have achieved together so far.  Sadly, there is still so much more we need to do.  Babies will continue to suffer and die needlessly until routine antenatal care in the UK includes informing women about group B Strep and offering them sensitive testing late in pregnancy, as is done in so many other countries.” 

For more, click here.


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2011 Poll shows young women want national screening for GBS

A new opinion poll has found that most young women support the introduction of a national screening programme to detect Group B Strep in pregnant women.

A recent survey conducted by ComRes on behalf of Group B Strep Support demonstrated that while more than half (54%) the women aged between 20-35 surveyed had heard of group B Strep, only 20% knew what it was.

The survey also showed that once young women are made aware of the dangers of group B Strep in pregnancy the overwhelming majority believe that pregnant women should always be offered information, tests and, when the bacteria is detected, antibiotics in labour.

•    92% believe that information on group B Strep should be given to all pregnant women
•    92% would welcome the opportunity for pregnant women to be screened for group B Strep in the later stages of pregnancy and believe this should be offered to women routinely
•    95% believe antibiotics should be offered in labour to women with group B Strep and that they themselves would definitely or probably accept the offer (89%)

For the ComRes summary of the poll click here. For the ComRes site and link to the poll, click here. To download the poll itself, click here.


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2011 Incidence of preventable GBS infection in babies in England, Wales & Northern Ireland rises again

The incidence of GBS infection in babies rose again to 0.41 per 1,000 live births in 2010. Data on how many group B Strep infections in newborn babies reported in 2010 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland were published in November 2011.

The number of newborn babies suffering these largely preventable infections continues to rise – by over 32% between 2003 (when risk-based prevention guidelines were introduced in the UK) and 2010 for early-onset GBS infections.

We had hoped we’d see a drop but sadly, that’s not happened - instead an extra 35 babies were reported as suffering early onset GBS infection, bringing the total number of voluntarily reported cases to 302. Click here to see the report.


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2011 Northern Ireland Assembly Health Committee (December)

Update on Group B Streptococcus - The Committee noted correspondence from Group B Strep Support and agreed to write to the Department about the issues raised. The Committee also agreed to hold a further evidence session with departmental officials on Group B Streptococcus.

The Committee noted a response from the Minister regarding Group B Strep testing.

Minutes from the meeting can be found here.


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2011 Northern Ireland Assembly Health Committee (September)

Evidence session on Group B Streptococcus - Group B Strep Support

The Committee took evidence from:
Ms Jane Plumb, Chair, Group B Strep Support
Professor Philip Steer, Chair, Group B Strep Support Medical Panel
Dr Alison Bedford Russell, Group B Strep Support Medical Panel
Mrs Jillian Boyd, Group B Strep Support
Mr Andrew Boyd, Group B Strep Support

A question and answer session ensued. The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for attending.

Departmental evidence session on Group B Streptococcus

The Committee took evidence from:
Dr Elizabeth Mitchell, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, DHSSPS
Dr Margaret Boyle, Senior Medical Officer, DHSSPS
Dr Paul Fogarty, Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, South Eastern Trust
Dr Stan Craig, Consultant Neonatologist, Belfast Trust

A question and answer session ensued. The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for attending.

Northern Ireland Assembly Briefing Paper - click here
Group B Strep Support evidence - click here
Northern Ireland Department of Health evidence - click here
 
Minutes from the meeting can be found here.


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2011 New e-petition for better prevention of group B Strep infections in babies

Please sign this new e-petition and ask your friends and family too as well.  You can share it easily using facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn from the e-petition page.

Once we get 100,000 signatures, we can expect it to be debated in Parliament - surely a massive step forward!

Please on this link to sign the petition, which is open to all UK citizens and residents.  The text of the e-petition is:

"We, the undersigned, ask the Department of Health to ensure that: every woman is routinely given accurate information about group B Streptococcus (group B Strep or GBS) during antenatal care; every low-risk woman is offered a sensitive test for GBS, ideally at 35-37 weeks of pregnancy; and every higher-risk woman is offered antibiotics in labour. GBS is the UK’s most common cause of life-threatening infection in newborn babies. Offering antibiotics in labour to Mums whose babies are at raised risk would prevent most of these infections. Babies are at raised risk when their Mums are carrying GBS during the current pregnancy, have previously had a baby with GBS infection, whose labour starts or waters break before 37 weeks of pregnancy, whose waters break more than 18 hours before delivery or who have a fever in labour. Such prevention strategies massively reduce GBS infection in newborn babies (in the USA by almost 80%) yet the UK incidence is up 16% since 2003."

No of Signatures:
0      15 August 2011
605 18 August 2011



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2010 To fill a void, by Nikki Harding

Nikki Harding became aware of the devastation Group B Strep can cause all too late. The lack of knowledge and understanding of this highly preventable bacteria, coupled with her own insurmountable grief has compelled her to diarise a detailed account of her life changing event through her newly released book.  

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To read more about this book, please click here


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2010 More research shows a testing strategy is more cost effective than a risk factor strategy

New research suggests that the NHS could actually make significant cost savings by introducing ECM testing for all pregnant women at 35-37 weeks and offering antibiotics in labour accordingly.

The research, published in BJOG - an International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, found that the cheapest preventative strategy would be to give antibiotics to all women in labour, but this would carry major disadvantages, such as medicalising childbirth and potentially increasing antibiotic resistance. Excluding this option, they found that "screening based on culture at 35-37 weeks' gestation, with antibiotics given to all those women who deliver prior to 35 weeks becomes the most cost-effective option.”

They calculated that the risk factor approach currently used in the UK costs GBP50,000 per infection prevented, but that this would fall to GBP45,000 if routine screening were introduced (screening is more efficient because it prevents more cases). This is a purely financial advantage, without taking into account the savings from fewer babies needing intensive care, and without considering the distress to parents who lose their baby when this could easily have been prevented.


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2010 Incidence of preventable GBS infection in babies in the UK remains unchanged

The incidence of GBS infection in babies unchanged in 2009 - Data on how many group B Strep infections in newborn babies reported in 2009 in England and Wales were published in November 2010.  The incidence has been rising – by over 28% between 2003 and 2008 for early-onset GBS infections. Disappointingly, there’s been little change in 2009 – we had hoped we’d see a drop but sadly, that’s not happened. Click on this link to see the report.
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2010 Revised US GBS Guidelines

Revised Guidelines for the Prevention of Perinatal Group B Streptococcal (GBS) Disease were published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) on November 19, 2010 and replace their previous guidelines, published in 2002.

The revised guidelines are available by clicking here.


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2010 GBS Symposium in London

Congratulations to the Health Protection Agency for organising a superb Group B Strep Symposium, with speakers from around the world, for students, laboratory researchers, scientists, clinicians (particularly neonatologists, paediatricians, obstetricians & gynaecologists) and public health specialists, providing the latest updates in the field of neonatal disease. 

The symposium was held on 17th June 2010. 

Jane Plumb, GBSS's Chief Executive and joint founder, spoke at the conference - copies of her slides are available here.


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2009 Petition to the Prime Minister

On 11 March 2009, a petition of almost 3200 names was submitted to the Prime Minister asking him to ensure all women are offered the chance to be tested for group B Strep during pregnancy - click on this link for more information. On 4 June 2009, the Government confirmed they will not offer routine screening for GBS to all pregnant women - so no surprises there. 


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2009 Reception at Stormont

On 25 February 2009, a reception and information event was held at Stormont for Irish MPs and medical professionals. The event was hosted by Northern Ireland’s new junior minister, Mr Jeffrey Donaldson MP MLA, and Dr Alasdair McDonnell MP MLA. The charity’s founder and chairman, Jane Plumb attended along with Professor Philip Steer, the chairman of the charity’s medical advisory panel. Mr Donaldson said “Northern Ireland has the highest rate of GBS infection in babies in the UK. We in Northern Ireland have the opportunity to lead the way in the UK by raising awareness of GBS and introducing testing to protect our babies from this devastating and preventable infection”. Our very grateful thanks to Susan Kyle a GBSS supporter who organised the event. Read more about it by clicking this link.


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2008 DEVANI Research Project into developing a vaccine against GBS

DEVANI (an abbreviation of the title DEvelopment of a Vaccine Against Neonatal Infections) is a European Commission Framework Seven project (HEALTH-F5-2007-200481), which began on 1st January 2008, is to provide useful information for the development of a vaccine against infections in babies caused by GBS.  Public Health Institutes and Universities from Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom (Health Protection Agency Centre for Infections) are all participating in the project.  The study is coordinated by Novartis Vaccines & Diagnostics, Siena, Italy - click here for more information on the Health Protection Agency website, click here for more information about the project itself and click here for a chart summarising the project.


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2008 GBS Infection on the Increase

GBS infections in babies on the increase in the UK and these infections are also increasing in adults.  The Health Protection Agency (and formerly the CDR) reported 470 GBS infections in babies aged 0-90 days in 2008, an increase of 51% since 2003 (when RCOG's guidelines were introduced).  That’s 3 more babies a week ... and this at a time when national prevention guidelines were being implemented. Click here to view the detail.


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2008 Research - Oral Antibiotics and preterm labour / rupture of membranes

Research published in the Lancet on 18 September 2008 suggested that low-dose oral antibiotics given to pregnant women to delay premature birth might cause long-term harm to their babies. 

And how does this study relates to antibiotics prescribed against GBS infection?  It doesn’t.  Antibiotics given to mothers and babies for GBS infection are given intravenously and in large doses so that the infection is properly treated.  The study published in the Lancet related to giving low-does oral antibiotics to mothers who were in threatened preterm labour, or who had preterm prelabour rupture of the membranes.  For more information, click here


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2008 - Mourning Sarah

Just released is a book, Mourning Sarah.  It's a mother's story of the death of her newborn baby from group B Strep infection.  It's a story of grief and recovery - one theme is empowerment.  Women must ask for the healthcare they deserve for themselves and their unborn and newborn babies.  For more information, click here.


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2008 Petition to the Prime Minister

On 23 January 2008, we delivered our Petition to No 10 which over 11,000 people had signed. GBSS supporters, representatives from Pregnancy & Birth, MPs Nicholas Soames, Theresa May, Nia Griffith, Philip Hollobone, Jeffrey Donaldson and Alasdair McDonnell and celebrity Doctor Chris Steele from TV’s This Morning all went to Downing Street to present the petition to the Prime Minister. Thanks to everyone who signed the petition and. You can see the responses (two of them!) to the petition on our website by clicking here.

If you’re as disappointed with the response as we are, please do make your views know – please write to your MP and tell them what you believe should be happening, and ask for his/her support. You can find out how to do this by clicking this link.


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2007 Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists - audit on GBS disease January 2007

In January 2007 the RCOG published the findings of their audit of practice in UK obstetric units against the recommendations of their guideline against GBS infection in newborn babies. The audit examined the organisation of testing, the use of intrapartum antibiotic prophylaxis (IAP) and the management of neonates born with increased risk of early-onset GBS disease. The clinical directors of each obstetric unit were contacted and asked to participate in this audit. A senior midwife, consultant obstetrician and consultant neonatologist from each unit were then asked to complete a short questionnaire about their own practice in relation to preventing GBS disease.

The results of the audit have now been published in a RCOG report. A summary version has also been created. Both versions of the report are available in .pdf and paper formats. The .pdf reports can be downloaded from http://www.rcog.org.uk/our-profession/good-practice/audit/prevention-neonatal-group-b-streptoccocal-disease-audit


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2006 GBS Survey by Pregnancy & Birth Magazine

Pregnancy & Birth Magazine According surveyed 1,000 pregnant women and new mothers about GBS. The key results are :

  • Nine out of 10 have 'never heard of Group B Strep' (87%) and of the few that have heard of it, TWO-THIRDS have 'no idea how dangerous this infection can be' (67%).
  • Most of the 13% who had heard about Group B Strep 'found out by chance' on the internet.
  • At present, NO test is given on the NHS and the only reliable test costs £32 privately. An overwhelming 92% of pregnant women surveyed say they would pay to have this test if they knew about it, although 40% of these say they 'can't really afford it'
  • 100% of survey respondents say the they 'would have the test if it was available on the NHS'

More details can be found in this press release from the magazine.


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2006 Online GBS Learning Package Launched

In May 2006, the UK National Screening Committee launched their GBS online learning package. This learning package has been developed to raise awareness of GBS amongst health care professionals and it provides a comprehensive multidisciplinary interactive teaching resource. Developed by the Women’s Health Specialist Library (part of the National Library for Health), the learning package is based upon the current UK guidelines published by the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists. It is divided into three sections - antenatal; delivery; and postnatal. Within each section there is the option to access:

  • an introduction to GBS
  • different clinical scenarios
  • a series of quiz questions to test knowledge
  • a FAQs section

Each section is self contained making easy access for busy health care professionals and allowing individuals to work through relevant sections at their preferred pace.

You can access the GBS learning pack- which is primarily aimed at health care professionals - at http://www.gbs-learning-tool.co.uk/gbs/Pages/AN_Intro.asp?TopID=9&PgID=27&SubTopID=2


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2006 Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists patient information on GBS

In February 2006, the RCOG produced a patient information leaflet on preventing GBS infection in newborn babies. You can find this at http://www.rcog.org.uk/womens-health/clinical-guidance/preventing-group-b-streptococcus-gbs-infection-newborn-babies .


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2006 Health Protection Agency Standard Operating Procedure now available on testing for GBS carriage

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has issued their BSOP (Bacteriology Standard Operating Procedure) No 58 - Screening swabs for Group B Streptococcal Carriage - see www.hpa-standardmethods.org.uk. In order to obtain optimum detection of GBS carriage, this BSOP recommends taking swabs from both the lower vagina AND rectum from pregnant women and recommends they should be processed using enriched culture media. It also states that the results should be reported urgently.

As a BSOP issued by the Health Protection Agency, it's the minimum standard recommended by the HPA for swab testing for group B streptococcal carriage. Indeed, All NHS laboratories accredited by Clinical Pathology Accreditation (UK) must have in place standard operating procedures that are based on, or give equivalent results to, these BSOP Standards.


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2005 Petition to the Prime Minister

On Tuesday, 8th November 2005, GBSS delivered a petition of 5060 names to Downing Street. That there were as many signatures as this in the 2 month period the petition was running is testament to the strength of feeling in the country about this issue. This petition called on the Government to ensure sensitive testing for GBS carriage is routinely and freely available for all pregnant women in the UK and that relevant health professionals are fully informed about GBS so they can advise expectant parents in their care.

We asked the Prime Minister to let us know:

1. What steps were being take to ensure that all health professionals involved in maternity care – particularly obstetricians, midwives and GPs – are fully educated and informed about the issues around GBS prevention, so that they can confidently and appropriately advise the expectant parents in their care.

2. When sensitive testing for GBS carriage will be routinely available on the NHS for all women late in pregnancy in the UK; and

3. What steps he will be taking to ensure the recently issued Health Protection Agency guidelines for tests for GBS carriage, recognised as optimal by not only the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists, but also by leading experts in the issue of GBS prevention, are used within the National Health Service.


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2005 Parliamentary Early Day Motion 538: Group B Streptococcus

On 6th July 2005, Mr David Cameron, MP for Witney, tabled another all-party Early Day Motion (EDM) about GBS. You can view the EDM 538 which 94 MPs signed at http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2005-06/538i to see who has already signed. MPs can no longer sign this motion, but you could still ask your MP for his/her support for GBSS's campaign for high quality information on GBS to be made available to all expectant parents, together with reliable testing to be offered to all pregnant women between 35 and 37 weeks of pregnancy. For more information about how to do this, click here.


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2004 Parliamentary Early Day Motion 973: Group B Streptococcus

Mr David Cameron, MP for Witney, tabled another all-party Early Day Motion (EDM) about GBS. You can view the EDM at http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2003-04/973 to see who signed. Although it is no longer possible for MPs to sign this motion, you could still ask your MP for his/her support for GBSS's campaign for high quality information on GBS to be made available to all expectant parents, together with reliable testing to be offered to all pregnant women between 35 and 37 weeks of pregnancy. For more information about how to do this, click here.


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2004 UK Research into the incidence of GBS infection

A research paper was published in January 2004 which, for the first time, establishes the minimum current burden of GBS disease in UK and Irish infants. The study identified cases of invasive GBS disease in infants younger than 90 days between 1 February 2000 and 28 February 2001 through surveillance involving paediatricians, microbiologists, and parents. 568 cases were identified, equivalent to a total incidence of 0.72 per 1000 live births; the incidence for early-onset disease was 0.48 per 1000, and for late-onset disease was 0.24 per 1000. Risk factors were identifiable for 218 (58%) cases of early-onset disease. 53 infants died (overall 9.7%). However, the study states, “Paediatricians and microbiologists failed to report 44% and 21% of cases respectively. The capture-recapture analysis suggests that the total number of cases for England, Wales & the Channel Islands may actually be 23% (21%-40%) higher than estimated from reports alone."UK research published in June 2003 estimates that the true incidence of GBS infection in newborn babies may be as high as 3.6 in every 1,000 babies born. Lancet. 2003 Jun 7;363(9373):1953-4. Estimated early-onset group B streptococcal neonatal disease. Luck S, Torny M, d'Agapeyeff K, Pitt A, Heath P, Breathnach A, Russell AB. (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/)So, the figures reported in this study should be looked upon as absolute minimum incidence figures – using them as they are will not only underestimate the true incidence of GBS infection but, inevitably, also underestimate the risks to babies from GBS infection. Group B streptococcal disease in UK and Irish infants younger than 90 days. Heath PT, Balfour G, Weisner AM, Efstratiou A, Lamagni TL, Tighe H, O'Connell LA, Cafferkey M, Verlander NQ, Nicoll A, McCartney AC; PHLS Group B Streptococcus Working Group. Lancet. 2004 Jan 24;363(9405):292-4 (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/).


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2003 Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists Summary of Guidelines

The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists has produced a one-page summary of their Green Top Guidelines Prevention of Early Onset Neonatal Group B Streptococcal Disease (36) November 2003.


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2003 Parliamentary Early Day Motion 1211: Group B Streptococcus

On 14 May 2003, Mr David Cameron, MP for Witney, tabled an all-party Early Day Motion (EDM) about GBS. You can view the EDM at this link to see who signed. MPs can no longer sign this motion, but you could still ask your MP for his/her support for GBSS's campaign for high quality information on GBS to be made available to all expectant parents, together with reliable testing to be offered to all pregnant women between 35 and 37 weeks of pregnancy. For more information about how to do this, click here.


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2003 National Screening Committee workshop on GBS prevention

The National Screening Committee (NSC) convened a workshop in November 2003 on preventing GBS infection in newborn babies. You can see the presentations from this workshop by clicking here. Discussions from this workshop were used to inform the NSC and the key outcomes were:

1. The National electronic Library for Women’s Health will focus on improving the organisation, distribution and management of knowledge about GBS. This will be a priority for next year. NeLH will work with NHS Direct to make this information available to women as well as clinicians.

This is an enormous step forward – good quality information being provided to health professionals and pregnant women is brilliant news!

2. Priority will be given to ensuring that women at increased risk receive consistent advice and appropriate clinical management.

This is fantastic too because, to achieve this, the level of knowledge about GBS prevention needs to rise dramatically amongst health professionals. And it also means that reliable testing should be made available on the NHS for this group of women, for example, so obstetricians can use reliable test to establish whether a woman with prolonged rupture of membranes is carrying GBS. The sooner reliable tests are available on the NHS, the better!

3. The research priorities for GBS will be reviewed and further research commissioned as appropriate.

This is a wonderful opportunity for good quality, useful research to be commissioned – clearly it’s important that money is spent on new research, rather than repeating research already done either here or in other countries. The commitment seems to be there to fund research aimed at GBS prevention, and even though the results may take years to obtain, that’s got to be good news

4. A project group will keep early-onset GBS, prevention, particularly the management of women at medium and low risk, under review and report to the NSC Antenatal Sub-Group.

The women at medium/low risk we believe would also benefit from ECM testing being available to them on the NHS. They could then make an informed decision about their care, based on good quality information about their GBS carriage status. But this seems unlikely to be available for the foreseeable future.

So there’s lots of really encouraging news – and we mustn’t forget that the NSC November 2003 workshop only happened because of the parliamentary activity in the preceding 6 months – so our thanks to everyone who involved their MP in the campaign, and to all the MPs who helped by asking questions, writing letters, etc. Your hard work has borne fruit!


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2003 Adjournment Debate on GBS

The adjournment debate took place in Westminster Hall at 11.00 am on Wednesday, 9th July 2003. The text of the debate is available here.

This photo shows Craig & Alison Richards, David Cameron MP and Jane & Robert Plumb outside the Houses of Parliament shortly after the debate.

"Higher estimates of incidence of early-onset group B streptococcal infection"

This paper published in the Lancet on June 7th 2003 suggests that the level of early-onset GBS infection may be higher than previously thought, lending support to the need for prevention strategies.


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2002 Revised GBS Guidelines from the U.S. Center for Disease Control

The CDC has issued some much-anticipated revised guidelines for the prevention of perinatal GBS. In a nutshell, the main change is the recommendation to test all pregnant women at 35-37 weeks' gestation for vaginal and rectal colonisation using reliable enrichment culture methods. Follow this link to view the full revised guidelines.


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2003 Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists issue GBS guidelines

The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (RCOG) issued their Green Top Guideline No 36 "Prevention of early onset neonatal Group B streptococcal disease" in November 2003. GBSS’s original recommendations for GBS prevention have clearly been vindicated by this guideline – we advocated a similar approach over 7 years ago … but we hope a guideline advocating reliable testing will happen more quickly! The RCOG guideline quotes likely incidences of GBS infection based on the presence of recognised risk factors and recommends intravenous antibiotics in labour for women in higher risk groups. However, the guideline uses the minimum incidence figures quoted in the Heath et al paper and, therefore, not only underestimates the true incidence of GBS infection but, inevitably, also underestimates the risks to babies from GBS infection. GBSS is fully supportive of this guideline which, when fully implemented in the UK, will prevent the majority of lethal cases of GBS infection in newborn babies. The major difference between our position and RCOG’s is that we view their guideline as a key starting position as even more GBS infection in newborn babies could be prevented through adopting a testing approach to GBS prevention. Unfortunately, the tests currently used within the NHS to diagnose GBS colonisation are insufficiently reliable as they give a falsely negative result for up to 50% of carriers - reliable Enriched Culture Media (ECM) tests do exist but are not widely publicised and, at present, we know of only one London laboratory which offers these tests (see Test Now Available For GBS Colonisation below).


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2001 Public Health Laboratory Service issue Interim Good Practice Recommendations

The Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) issued Interim Good Practice recommendations for the prevention of early-onset GBS infection in the UK. These were produced by the PHLS GBS Working Group and were subsequently replaced by the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists' Green Top Guideline No 36 published in 2003. 


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