What is Group B Strep?
Group B strep are bacteria that can colonize in the vagina, rectal, and intestinal area of healthy adults and pregnant women. Statistically, about 25% of all healthy adults will at one time have a GBS infection.
While pregnant women do not often show symptoms of a GBS infection, there is a risk that they can transmit the infection to their newborn baby. Once transmitted, some newborns may develop complication which can cause pneumonia, meningitis, and even sepsis, so infants who are at risk need to be monitored. The best way to prevent this is through early detection in the mother and administration of antibiotics to treat it.
Group B Strep infections can also occur in nonpregnant adults who suffer from chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, or cancer. Typically those over 65 are at higher risk, but the incident rates of GBS infection in nonpregnant adults has been steadily increasing throughout the years.
Causes of Group B Strep
Healthy people can carry Group B Strep in their body at any time, it can also come and go or can stay permanently.
GBS can be found in some pregnant women and if not treated can pass to their newborns. When newborns contract Group B Strep infection in the first week of life it is called early onset. For babies who are 1 to 3 weeks of age when they develop the disease, it is termed late-onset.
How Can Group B Strep be Transmitted?
Group B Strep is transmitted by a pregnant mother to their babies during a vaginal birth. Typically mothers who test positive will be given antibiotics during delivery to reduce the risk of transmission. This will occur in about 50% of mothers who have an active infection during birth.
Out of this 50%, only about 100 to 200 of these babies born will develop a GBS infection requiring treatment.
Who’s at Higher Risk for Group B Strep?
When it comes to having Group B Strep, the incident rates are higher among African Americans than Caucasians. While there are not many statistical differences with a mother becoming a GBS carrier, there are some instances where there is a higher risk of transmission to the infant, including:
- Early onset of labor
- Fever during labor and delivery
- An active urinary tract infection
- Premature rupture of the membranes
- Previous Group B Strep infection
- Positive GBS culture after 35 weeks or pregnancy
Symptoms of GBS Infection
When an active Group B Strep infection is present, there can be some symptoms that can range from mild to severe. Some of the symptoms to watch out for include.
- Bluish color
- Breath complications
- Problems with heart rate and blood pressure
- Problems feeding
- Skin infections
- Lung infection
- Urinary tract infection
- Joint infections
Treatment of GBS
While the most common form of treatment is to treat the mother with antibiotics during labor to prevent the transmission, once contracted a GBS infection is typically treated with IV antibiotics and sometimes a surgical procedure if a bone or joint infection is present.
While GBS infections can result in severe complications, they are often preventable in newborns with routine maternal screening which makes prenatal care essential to protecting your newborn against such infections.